Over the last few years, electric cars have seen a significant surge in popularity. With the launch of popular models such as Nissan’s LEAF and the Chevy Volt, EVs would seem ready for their close-up. But is it really the case?
The New York Times has run a thought-provoking piece on one problem related to EVs threaten their conquering a significant share of the automobile market: the incompatibility of fast charging standards. The article correctly reminds us of the old days of Betamax and VHs video to give us an idea of the obstacles that lack of compatibility can present to the adoption of a new technology.
Charging an EV as rapidly as possible is a must if we want to have long-distance sustainable travel on these promising sustainable solutions. But all is not plain sailing in EV-land since Detroit and German automakers in May announced their own standard, which they have called DC-fast charging with a Combined Charging System. The problem is that Asian companies, including Nissan and Toyota, have already adopted a fast charging technology called CHAdeMO, which is present in around 1,500 chargers all over the world. Nissan and Toshiba say no new standard is necessary and adding a new one would be detrimental to the EV market.
To make the situation even more confusing, Chinese EV makers are creating their own fast chargers and California-based EV maker Tesla is also on the case, creating its own fast chargers as well.
On the bright side, the International Electrotechnical Commission is about to review the standards and should soon approve one or more of the fast charger ones.
While it is understandable that companies choose to support a technology that they think is the best one, it would be a shame to see the mass adoption of electric vehicles being hampered by paradoxical standards, especially considering the urgency of reducing emissions generated by transport vehicles. It would be good if the industry agreed on one universal standard as soon as possible. Failing that, we’ll be bound for a long period of incompatibility misery. Like in the old, low-definition days of VHS and Betamax.