Japan appears to be serious about EVs. Evidence: Japan’s increased focus on chargers. The hard part of EVs is not to build them. The tough issue is where to charge them. And how quickly. Whether you live in Manhattan or Tokyo: As a city dweller, you hardly can put a charging station on the street or into the underground parking garage. The average suburbanite in Tokyo already has a hard time just finding a parking space (proof required if you want to buy a car). A charging station? What charging station? So the Japanese are busy building them. No wonder: 67 percent of the Japanese live in cities. (In the U.S.A. it’s even more: 82 percent.) Who’s leading the charge for chargers?
According to The Nikkei [sub] “companies big and small see a golden opportunity in providing chargers for this impending wave of cars.”
JFE Engineering has developed a high-speed charger that can fill an electric car battery to 50 percent capacity in just three minutes. That takes a lot of Amps, and to prevent the lights from going out in the neighborhood, the company buffers the power in a high-capacity storage battery that can also discharge very rapidly. Their charger meets the specifications of the proposed CHAdeMo standard. It costs about $50,000, installed, “roughly half the usual amount,” as the Nikkei says.
Nissan developed a rapid charger that goes for only $15,000. The maker of the Leaf wants to install the charger at 200 dealerships an sell it to others.
Yokohama-based Hasetec has a whole line-up of rapid chargers. They added a medium-speed charger that requires 90-120 minutes to fill a car’s battery, and cost about $20,000. They see a niche at operators of parking lots and amusement facilities.
Itochu thinks “green” and “distribution.” They want to install solar panels Japan’s ubiquitous FamilyMart convenience stores, and combine them with an Itochu Enex charger.
Distribution is a huge challenge. For some reason, the most logical choice (gas stations) doesn’t range on top. The charger folks seek places with a higher dwell time, such as shops, parking garages, and amusement parks. Especially for shops, the concept is attractive: If the car isn’t full charged, shop some more.
Research company Fuji Keizai says the Japanese market for chargers should be $100m by 2015. Want to get your share of the EV market? Build chargers.