There Can Be Only One. Nissan Backs CHAdeMO Over New SAE Standard

5 years ago by Jay Cole 5

A few days ago, the Society of International Engineers chose a new single-port fast charging method as its standard for fast charging for electric vehicles, the Combined Charging System.  And if this was 2009, that would have been no big deal.  The problem is of course, that it is indeed not 2009, its 2012, and this new system doesn’t go into effect by any degree until 2013, “with all new vehicle types (at least in Europe) beginning in 2017.”

Meanwhile, going on for the better part of the last 4 years, there already is a standard fast charging system used pretty much exclusively all around the world, namely CHAdeMO.

Granted, the newly announced SAE system, being a harmonized single-port, makes a lot of sense…but many new concepts/ideas don’t replace the established norm if the cost of implementing them isn’t greater than the reward.

In this case, the new system gains you a prettier receptacle, and a few square inches of landscape under your recharging cap vs. starting an industry destabilizing war with an entire fast charging infrastructure already on the ground that makes up 100% of the world’s fast charging stations, along with a standard fast charging outlet that is found on (or as an option on) 95% of all electric cars.

New Hotness - Combined Charging

Given that Nissan is the undisputed leader in plug-in vehicles both planned and in produced to date, we figured it was best to go directly to them to see how they felt, as they probably carry as much weight as anyone.  I asked Katherine Zachery, who is the first word from Corporate Communications at Nissan North America, if Nissan would be complying with this new standard,or sticking with the old CHAdeMO standard, or maybe perhaps attempting to satisfying both needs regionally (SAE in NA and Europe, CHAdeMO in Japan), and she had this to say:

“We support CHAdeMO standard and are supporting its rollout and compatibility across all vehicles and chargers. One global standard is important, and CHAdeMO is currently the only certified quick-charge standard existing today.”

And why wouldn’t they?  Nissan, along with Mitsubishi and Toyota are the leading players behind this established system. Ms. Zachery then took the time to point out the obvious, and why another system doesn’t make sense:

“All electric cars equipped for fast charge on the roads today are compatible. As you may know, the Nissan LEAF has as standard equipment a DC Fast Charge port on the SL trim level,which comprises the vast majority of LEAF sales. Quick chargers using theCHAdeMO standard have been installed by companies including AeroVironment, 350Green, NRG and ECOtality in quite a few states – with an estimated 500 DC fast chargers going in the ground this year (in the US).

Old and Busted? CHAdeMO on Nissan LEAF

Here is something else to consider, the list of ‘global’ automakers that have signed on to back the new SAE system, other than GM are not exactly a who’s-who of electric vehicle supporters, heck three of them are the same company.   How many production plug-in EVs with capable fast charging as an option have Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, Porsche and Volkswagen sold combined to the general public so far to date?  10? 12?

For General Motors, other than what ground their HQ sits on, one wonders why they chose to follow this group at all.  Clearly the new platform would have no hope to exist at all without the General’s presence to give it legitimacy.

Obviously, we are not enthused with the decision of the SAE to muddy the waters and start an unecessary global turf war, better system or not.  Eventually, one of these two groups will win out, but ultimately the real loser is an even more confused EV consumer.

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5 responses to "There Can Be Only One. Nissan Backs CHAdeMO Over New SAE Standard"

  1. If there there were thousands of CHAdeMO chargers installed all around America and hundreds of thousands of cars using them then I would probably agree that this is just muddying the waters and confusing people. But the fact is there really aren’t ANY CHAdeMO chargers in the entire country save for a couple dozen sprinkled here and there and many of them don’t even work. Once the new standard in officially adopted in July it will be easy to have the new DC quick charge stations that get installed offer both CHAdeMO & SAE (I spoke to someone at Blink and they are already planning on that) if they wanted to do that.

    Yes, there are eight or nine thousand(maybe if off a little there I don’t have the official numbers) cars that have CHAdeMO charging capability, but that is such a small number it’s practically negligible (maybe I wouldn’t be saying that if I bought a car that has a CHAdeMO port though!) but in the automotive world that is really nothing.

    it’s just so early in the game I don’t think this is really an issue except for the few orphaned LEAF’s and Mitsubishi i’s that will already have a CHAdeMO port if we start installing only SAE only stations. Personally I think Nissan and Mitsubishi will definitely convert to the SAE plug within a couple years for the vehicles they sell in the US and use the Japanese standard for the cars in Japan.

    I believe it’s going to be a very slow rollout of level 3 DC quick chargers anyway. What’s the business plan for them? They are very expensive to install, even if the equipment cost falls the utility charges can be huge because of the enormous supply them need. How can a site make money off them? If a car needs a half hour to get to 80% then at most the charger can accommodate a couple dozen cars a day and that’s if they are lined and waiting. What will they have to charge to even break even?

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I see this as a deathblow to CHAdeMO in the US. Time will tell.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Hey Tom!

      You are right this is a big blow to CHAdeMO, they had it all, and now they have this on their plate.

      I agree with all your points, and when I talked to Nissan, I really tried to suss out if they were open to using both standards, or rather would they be open to use whichever standard that seemed to have the most traction in that country, and as you can tell, they really aren’t on board at this point. It seemed logical/in their best interest to do both…both they have a lot of time and money into CHAdeMO, so I understand why they will fight it.

      If this new standard can take hold anywhere it will be the US, because as you say, unlike in places like Japan, fast charging it is still a very regional play, and there is not a lot of stations.

      I also think the validity of 3rd party/public quick charge stationsthemselves is still up in the air somewhat. I guess the question really is, CHAdeMO took 4 years to get as far as it is now (not very far), how long will it take the new standard to catch up…and who is going to put the time and resources into it.

  2. ClarksonCote says:

    For what it’s worth, on Facebook, Blink has stated that they can easily add an SAE port to any of their existing DC fast charging stations, and are happy to do so if these SAE-approved cars start being built with this connector.

    I can see why Nissan would be a bit angry, but a unified standard benefits all, and given the lack of CHADeMO/Leaf penetration at this point, late is better than never.

  3. Jay,

    Then there’s Tesla’s Superchargers! I have to admit I’m really surprised they are really going this alone with their own level 3 DC charging system that isn’t compatible with either CHAdeMO or SAE so their stations cannot support a combination of systems.