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SAE sets standard for EV fast chargers

But there's still a Beta/VHS-like divide between automakers from different regions

Published: October 17, 2012, 4:00 PM

Combined EV Charging Connector

SAE International (Society of Automotive Engineers) has long-since established standards for the types of connectors used to charge electric vehicles (EVs), from 120-volt and 240-volt AC source. And they have been adopted by most of the world's automakers.

As a result, those EVs already on the road can, for the most part, all be charged from common chargers – at 120 volts AC (level 1) or 240 volts AC (Level 2).

Fully charging an EV from those sources can take a few hours, at best, and more than 20 hours in the extreme.

EV makers and suppliers of charging stations have all been working on, and several have developed, so-called fast chargers that can potentially recharge an EV in as little as 20 minutes. These chargers typically operate at up 480 volts or more, DC.

But there has been no standardized connector for these chargers and different automakers have gone in different directions. As a result, very few public fast-charging stations have been built, to date.

Now the industry has divided into two clear camps.

Japanese EV makers have effectively adopted a connector they call CHAdeMo. It uses a separate connector for fast charging, while maintaining separate standardized connectors for Levels 1 and 2.

Earlier this year, several American and European manufacturers agreed upon a standardized Combo Coupler, so named because it combines all the connections and electronic protocols for charging from Level 1, Level 2 and DC fast-chargers all into a single connector.

This week, SAE announced adoption of the Combo Coupler design and related specifications into its original J1772 standard, which also defines the lower-level connectors.

Both North American and European automakers have expressed their support for the new standard. And General Motors has announced that its Chevrolet Spark EV, to be released next spring, will accommodate the new Combo Coupler.

But the Japanese automakers have not shown any sign of capitulation on this issue.

So, in the meantime, we have another Beta/VHS-like situation that continues to hurt both parties, as well as consumers.

Related Link:

Automakers move on common fast-charge connectors