DC Quick Charging Battle Just Beginning: CHAdeMO Vs. SAE Combo Vs. Tesla Supercharger

JUN 6 2013 BY MARK KANE 26

Nissan LEAF connected to Nissan CHAdeMO charger

Nissan LEAF connected to Nissan CHAdeMO charger

Yazaki CHAdeMO plug

Yazaki CHAdeMO plug

When you look at the facts, CHAdeMO – JEVS (Japan Electric Vehicle Standard) G105-1993, is the only mass market commercially available DC fast charger standard around today.  CHAdeMO is a standard that has been implemented by several large automakers and several dozens of chargers manufacturers.

The first contender to rival CHAdeMO (at least in the US) was, of course, the Tesla Supercharger, but for now it is only a proprietary device, dedicated to the Model S.

The latest arrival, and without any cars, and very few EVSE installations to date is the SAE J1772 Combo (the Spark EV will be first in the fall, followed closely by the BMW i3), along with the European version Combo 2.

On paper the CHAdeMO standard is the clear leader, but consumers are lamenting that the connector is too bulky and power output is too low – 62.5 kW maximum (125A and 500 V). A recent development has Tesla charging at up to 120 kW, as well as being smaller, lighter, and much more attractive. The SAE Combo can do about 100 kW (200-500 V, 200 A).

But maybe CHAdeMO isn’t standing on the losing position. Lets see what the CHAdeMO organization says on the question of power:

One of the key trade-offs when installing a fast charger is that the optimal power output depends on two factors: the cost of delivering the required power at the infrastructure side, and the charging time which is also dependent on the battery performance and state of the technology.

Bringing the required power to the charger includes both the cost of the hardware as well as the cost of connecting to the grid at the required level. The majority of utility companies around the world supported CHAdeMO’s view in eventually setting the most appropriate power level at 50KW.

In the future, as the price of the power units continues to decrease and the performance of the battery continues to improve, faster and higher power chargers be eventually necessary. In fact, the geometry of CHAdeMO connector is designed to allow for 200A, which means it can almost double its power level.

On the other hand, the installation of 20KW units require much less output power and can be an ideal charging solution in certain urban or commercial areas where access to higher power level is not readily available. This flexibility on both ends of the charging power spectrum demonstrates the clear competitive potential of the CHAdeMO in the market.

Nissan, which is main player backing the CHAdeMO standard is saying similar things:

“A CHAdeMO quick-charger delivers 50 kW of high voltage direct current (DC) via a special safety approved connector with specification that can go up to 100kW. By delivering the DC charge directly to the car’s power source, the CHAdeMO quick-charger can replenish a battery to around 80 per cent of its capacity in as little as 15-30 minutes.”

If this is true, the message is that CHAdeMO can be upgraded (with backward compatibility) from 125 A to 200 A, which at 500 V is 100 kW! Thus, besides aesthetics, there is no real advantage of the other system over CHAdeMO – maybe if others eventually can increase to 150 kW or 200 kW, but not at current 100-120 kW max level.

Another drawback on the original CHAdeMO connector was convenience. Several companies from Japan, like Yazaki and Sumitomo have already issued new designs of CHAdeMO connectors that are simple in use, like that of the J1772 AC plug – just push inside, and click a button if you want disconnect.  There is still no answer for the “second receptacle” problem for Level 2 charging.

Next Generation Yazaki CHAdeMO Connector

Next Generation Yazaki CHAdeMO Connector

Sumitomo Electric’s SEVD-01 CHAdeMO plug

Sumitomo Electric’s SEVD-01 CHAdeMO plug

Until then, the important thing to realize is that we do not have cars that can utilize power higher than current 62,5 kW maximum from CHAdeMO, or if they do, they only utilize it for a small part of SOC (state of charge) window.

For example, with a 100 kW service, you perhaps could cut LEAF charging time from about 30 to just over 20 minutes (as in the Spark EV, when that functionality is released sometime after the car’s launch), but this is best case scenario when temperature aren’t extreme.  In a country like Norway or Canada in winter, fast charging can be 2-3 times longer in winter, making a 20 kW charge no different than if you had a 200 kW capability.

Additionally, many people do not use fast chargers to full charge, but rather only  to about 80%, a 10-15 minute process in most cars,  and then they go – they will not notice even less of a difference.

The Zoe's Unique Chameleon Charging System Can Take Up to 43 kW

The Zoe’s Unique Chameleon Charging System Can Take Up to 43 kW 3-phase AC

Separately – more power equals more expense, both on the side of device and on the side of utility, which limits the number of places where chargers can be installed.

Based on these factors, we should not count the older standard, CHAdeMO, losing a lot of ground against any of the new arrivals, the SAE J1772 Combo, European Combo 2 or Tesla Supercharger connector.   A more likely scenario is flexible/multiple output station in the more dense electric vehicle areas.

If not for Nissan backing CHAdeMO so fervently, it may have faded somewhat in the face of this new competition.  However, after such a heavy investment in preparing their car for it, in developing their own units, and in building infrastructure in Japan, the US and several other countries, what could they now tell their partners, their engineers, and customers that bought car with CHAdeMO inlet?  It is very unlikely to happen.   CHAdeMO looks to be here to stay, and hopefully will be upgraded to a better plug, and  higher power output, if people really want it.

Moreover, this year CHAdeMO should be issued in  IEC norm (International Electrotechnical Commission) with 3rd party certifiaction, which will make it an easier standard to adopt for new companies outside of actually joining the CHAdeMO Association.

What is interesting to watch develop is if the new arrivals to the fast charging game, have clouded the playing field, and may in fact give Nissan a competitive advantage in the short term at least as other automakers adopting other standards seem reluctant to aid in development of these new platforms infrastructure.

Even if the Combo charger do start to get a foothold, a company like Nissan with a separate J1772 AC outlet already have their bets hedged, they can just add another two pins, making the LEAF able to get access to any charge point.  This currently puts Nissan in the perfect position to sit back and just watch what GM, Ford, VW and BMW do with combo.

With everyone now in the game and looking for market share, the real battle is just beginning.

From Left to Right: Mennekes, CHAdeMO and Combo

From Left to Right: Mennekes, CHAdeMO and Combo

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26 Comments on "DC Quick Charging Battle Just Beginning: CHAdeMO Vs. SAE Combo Vs. Tesla Supercharger"

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CHAdeMO missed it’s chance in the most part of europe. Today there are like 20 stations in germany and not much more in france. I wished Nissan, Mitsu and PSA (with the i and it’s PSA-badges) had made a deal with CHAdeMO to install chargers at everyone of their dealers back in 2011 or 12. Now we have something like a charger-standard-war.

Wrong, In Germany there are around 40 CHAdeMO stations; in France around 70; in the UK almost 90; in Estonia 160. To sum up: More than 800 CHAdeMO stations in Europe so far and increasing quickly,

To make a fair comparison you need a picture of all charger handles shown side by side. Having individual photos side by side is sometimes misleading. I can take a picture of a tiny object and make it look larger than it is. I know it’s tough but maybe the manufactures can send you just the charger handles. Size will matter for users and manufacturers. (smaller is better)


Image added to article with actual side-by-side of Mennekes, CHAdeMO and Combo

When picturing side-by-side it is better to compare plug connector end (cross-section) vs. the back of a plugs handle! Designs of handles can change, by designs of plug end much harder to change.

Why is the Tesla connector (which can deliver 120 kW/h) so much smaller in diameter than a J1772 plug, or Mennekes plug?

Have heard (rumor?) that Tesla is going to use Mennekes connector on European Model S (and updated version of their Super Charger station). For DC SuperCharging, Tesla would use pairs of existing pins in Mennekes plug to deliver the higher current DC charge. Adding smart-configuration to the Mennekes plug avoids need for larger Mennekes-Combo plug. By supporting Mennekes plug, Tesla able to plug into Europe’s approved standard network.

The CHAdeMO connector is 7cm in diameter.

The European variant of the SAE CCS connector (Mennekes) is 10cm high.
On the US variant (J1772), the retaining clip adds maybe another cm.

I don’t have the dimensions of the Tesla Model S connector but it is the smallest. While this may be seen as an advantage, there are questions as to whether it can be made to satisfy regulatory safety requirements in Europe and/or other areas (CHAdeMO is obviously approved already, and I trust CCS has been designed to comply as well).

The standard in the US is the SAE Combo Charger. Nissan is the only automaker married to the idea of the CHAdeMO charger, simply because their cars from Japan uses that charger. Because the US has the SAE Combo Charger standard, most of the the new Nissan chargers should be installed as ‘duel’ charging stations to accommodated their previous vehicles on the Japanese standard, along with the new models coming on the US standard. Along with ALL federal dollars from every fast charger implementation nationwide will be installing the SAE Combo Charger or duel SAE Combo/CHAdeMO chargers. Blink is already updating their charging stations to accept Combo Fast Charging based on a response from Blink Support: “……the new SAE combo plug is a little different than the current CHAdeMO plug. Thankfully, we will be able to swap out one of the CHAdeMO plugs on Blink DC Fast Chargers for the new SAE combo plug. This will allow both vehicles with the CHAdeMO port and vehicles with the new SAE combo plug to charge up at Blink DC Fast Chargers!” Then there is the fact that most Nissan Leaf models do not have the fast charger installed, that is now a… Read more »

“Nissan Leaf models do not have the fast charger installed”

I believe you are thinking of the onboard faster 6.6kW AC charger added to the SV and SL this year, NOT the DC Chademo charging port which I believe has been included on every LEAF, ever. Older LEAFs *do* have a “fast” AC charger (3.3kW), just not as fast as this year’s. Next year it looks like the 6.6kW AC charger will be standard.

” the DC Chademo charging port which I believe has been included on every LEAF, ever.”

That’s not true. It’s not on the 2011/2012 SL version, and it’s only an option on the 2013 S/SL. My Leaf certainly doesn’t have one.

That said, I’ve heard that the vast majority of cars have the port, with (unvalidated) reports of as high as 95% of cars.

Sorry, I mixed up the SV/SL designations.

In 2011/2012, the SL had CHAdeMO standard, the SV did not even have an option.

In 2013, the SL still has CHAdeMO standard. The S/SV have it as an option.

Where are you getting your information from?!? I’m not saying you’re wrong, but you state several things that are against the “conventional wisdom”. I would love to see your sources. Here is the “conventional wisdom”:

1) Nissan has NO plans to support CCS now, or ever. They certainly haven’t “decided” to use it by 2014/2015. This is supported by the fact that they have accelerated the rollout of their CHAdeMO chargers.

2) Most Leafs sold DO have the CHAdeMO port. I have heard numbers as high as 95%, although I’ve seen no support for that number either. Yes it’s part of an optional package, but that package is very popular.

3) In your list of cars, you include more PHEVs/EREVs than pure BEVs. As far as I have heard, the only PHEV that has ever mentioned DC fast charging is the Mitsubishi Outlander. Mitsubishi is with Nissan wrt the CHAdeMO standard. There is no reason to believe that they would choose CCS over CHAdeMO.

Again, I am not saying you’re wrong. I’m just asking for your sources. Your claims are very different from what I have heard.

Most of what you said is simply not true. First, just because the SAE has declared Combo to be the “standard” doesn’t really mean much. I could declare myself the King of England, but so what? The fact is that as of today, there are thousands of CHAdeMO cars on the roads, and ZERO cars with Combo. Blink is not “already updating” their DC Fast Chargers to support Combo. Perhaps they have plans to do so in the future, but please let me know which of their 75+ chargers they have upgraded to include a Combo plug? You claim that most Nissan Leafs do not have the CHAdeMO port installed. What’s your source for this? The CHAdeMO port has been a standard feature on the Leaf SL since the 2012 MY, and it is now included as an option on the S and SV in MY 2013. However, the prices you quote for the option are misleading. The CHAdeMO port is bundled as part of a package, meaning that on the S, you get the CHAdeMO port AND a 6.6kW on-board charger AND a backup camera. On the SV, you get the CHAdeMO port AND upgraded LED headlights. For MY… Read more »

Brian and EK please do not question bloggin on his crystal ball views…

As King of North Amercian I will back up all his predictions once they become reality. 😉

Until then, chademo all the way!!!

It’s funny how clueless some folks are, and how they actually are providing evidence counter to their claims (and sometimes just plain wrong on basic facts).

Here’s some facts: In the USA and Canada, there is exactly ONE installed GM/German auto manufacturer block Frankenplug charger. It’s between Phoenix and Tucson, and the last I heard, it was broken. Somebody wants to install one in the northeast USA (and are calling it the “first”, as it is a CHAdeMO and SAE dual unit). NRG/EVgo will likely install 200 in California over four years, each with a CHAdeMO unit sitting next to it. After that, things are pretty slim on the Frankenplug deployment. There will be 3000-4000 CHAdeMO units in the world at the end of 2013.

It’s not mentioned in the article, but Fuji Electric already has deployed a light weight and easy to use CHAdeMO “nozzle” at San Juan Capistrano, California, USA (disclosure: I’m a principal in that EVoasis installation).

Here’s some light reading from CHAdeMO:


And a link to another well done InsideEVs write up:


re: “The standard in the US is the SAE Combo Charger” … just because SAE says Combo is an ‘SAE standard’ does make the J1772-Combo connector/plug an U.S. standard. The market of consumers will decide, by using what best suits there needs. Features like ease of use, weight, & reliability will effect their experience in use & choice going forward.

Currently Nissan has over delivered over 27,000 Leafs (85-90%) having CHAdeMO ports in the U.S. By Jan 2014 the number of Leafs at current sales pace will top 45,000 in U.S. and 100,000+ globally in spring of 2014. Tesla now has over 10,000 Model S’s on the road in U.S. now and likely more than 25,000 by Jan 2014.

Note: the SAE Combo is a J1772/Combo mash-up and is *not compatible* with the European Mennekes/Combo mash-up. Standards commities refer to these as “Type 1 Combo” & “Type 2 Combo”.

Mitsubishi has Chademo charger too, on both, the i Miev and Outlander PHEV.

Most of the other Plugin-Hybrids you mentioned will not have a DC quick charging function at all.

The standard in the US is the SAE Combo Charger ?!?
Now THAT’s funny. There are what … over a thousand Chademo chargers across the US. Last week, the frankenplug (only ONE) finally got installed. I will try and not smirk when one explains how a charger (with no vehicles available to use it any way) quantity of one is tantamount to being “the standard”.

I’d like to see a dual port design. Could you cut the time in half w/dual port charging? What if the battery was separated into 2 banks? What if we continued this into triple port charging? Use one port for overnight, and all 3 ports for a 10 minute charge.

Multiple ports in parallel also solve the issues of conductor diameter for DC charging (amount of material needed for conductor increases as the square of diameter of cord).

But that would be very expensive on the car side of things, to have multiple ports and all the electronics necessary for each individual port.

Along those lines is the twin charger option on the Tesla Model S.

A multiple port design doesn’t reduce the size of wire (or costs) needed for a quick (or super charge) station location. Added ports (number of pins) & added electronics increase the costs for each EV, and the number of charge stations needed.

For comparison the Tesla plug can charge using both AC & DC from the same plug/connector. The J1772 is just a couple inch long cylinder the shape of J1772 plug that fits theTesla plug. Differences in charge communication protocols is handled by on-board electronics; AC converted to DC by on-board charger(s) with relays engaged for direct DC charging of battery pack.

The small cross-sectional area of a Tesla Plug vs. Combo, or CHAdeMO continues to amaze me. All 3 plug designs have similar max. Amp and Voltage ratings. Why so much variation in size of pins & number of pins between designs?

Another problem with charging stations besides plug variations is price variations. Because most charging stations (except Tesla SuperCharging Network) are owned by individuals, paying monthly subscriptions, price per charge varies. Only Tesla can set a consistent price for non-Model S owners whose manufactures agree to use the Tesla charging technology and hardware. Mercedes and Toyota are smart to have partnered with Tesla and may in the future use the Tesla plug for the ability to offer their customers the convenience of using the Tesla SuperCharging Network at a reasonable consistent fee.


The smartest guys are Tesla guys. They are orientied to max capacity and limited number of fast charging just for intercity driving. Others are speculating about grid and fast charging costs but this does not matter. Fast charging shall be not daily habit and it not makes sense since it is absolutely OK overnight slow charging for normal comute. Fast charging equals to emergency service and regular cost for that service is 10 fold. It does not matter that Tesla is not charging cost reflective price for fast charging. It is very smart Googlewise and long term marketing move but in reality there will be only several dosens of those Tesla fast charging stations and will be quite OK to serve long distance Tesla drivers.

Problem with Tesla is that their stuff tends to easily overheat.

A fellow Roadster owner tells me he’s gone through 3 Universal Mobile Connectors besides finally buying a Clipper Creek. Now with his model “s” , the HPC apparently overheats so Tesla told him to limit the current to 60 amps.

Be interesting to see if there are any heating problems on the “s” connector at a sustained 120 kw.

If this is true, the message is that CHAdeMO can be upgraded (with backward compatibility) from 125 A to 200 A, which at 500 V is 100 kW! Thus, besides aesthetics, there is no real advantage of the other system over CHAdeMO – maybe if others eventually can increase to 150 kW or 200 kW, but not at current 100-120 kW max level.

No real advantage? The combo standard is built for charging levels up to 150 kW DC! Plus you can also charge AC with it. For Cars equipped with CHAdeMO not to be solely dependent on DC CHAdeMO stations they have to be equipped with an AC outlet, thus increased cost for implementation. The Combo standard has both types (AC and DC) integrated in one outlet. So how exactly is CHAdeMO better?? Another thing is the communication standard. CHAdeMO is using CAN-BUS and combo IEC15118 over PLC. The latter is clearly superior

A clean fast is better than a dirty breakfast. QueetVemi