Today, members of CHAdeMO congregated in the 7th floor auditorium of Tokyo’s Big Sight for CHAdeMO’s General Assembly 2012. CHAdeMO is a consortium of mostly Japanese companies with the target of establishing a standard for the charging of EVs. Also in the room was an invisible, but giant Godzilla. They called him “The Combo.” The combo is the product of (in Japanese views) an unholy alliance between U.S. and German OEMs which agreed on their own plug. The CHAdeMO and The Combo are utterly incompatible. Sparks are already flying.
CHAdeMO president Toshiyuki Shiga, normally COO of Leaf-producer Nissan, sets the tone of the meeting by saying that “in the U.S. and in Europe there is a movement to eliminate the CHAdeMO by making the combo a regional standard.” That snub probably is too subtle for American ears, but the Germans will get it and will be appropriately outraged.
The war of the plugs is on. Currently, it is only a war of words. “The Combo” was repeatedly derided today as “the plug without the cars.” This not-so-subtle putdown hints at the fact that the combo is still a nascent standard (the SAE is supposed to declare it a real one,) while CHAdeMO has been adopted by the tens of thousands who bought Nissan’s Leaf and some of Mitsubishi’s iMIEV.
When listening to proponents of either standard, one gets the impression that the plug is a matter of life and death, and fitting the wrong plug can mean the end of the EV as we know it.
Allegedly, 350green will use the CHAdeMO plug. I ask Mariana Gerzanych what she thinks of the combo, and she thinks it is “good technology.” Asked which side of the plug wars 350green will be on, Gerzanych answers: “None. We will put both plugs on our fast chargers.”
Doing this is no big deal, various techies at the meeting tell me. The plug represents less than five percent of the cost of the system. Having two different plugs until the dust settles won’t be cost prohibitive. Technical differences of the battling chargers can be settled. CHAdeMO Europe’s Ronald de Haas and various others suggest that CHAdeMO should adopt The Combo’s “power level change during the session” and its narrower, but lower cost “voltage window.” This may sound like Greek to most of us, but at the conference, it did sound like a done deal.
CHAdeMO’s peace initiative does not sit too well with General Motors. At a public hearing convened last week by California Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, GM’s Manager of Environment & Energy Policy, Shad Balch, asked for an embargo of the CHAdeMO. Balch said that “we need to make sure, especially because we’re talking about taxpayer money,” that ONLY the upcoming SAE combo standard is installed going forward. Balch was boooo’d at the hearing, and Torquenews notes that “the SAE committee is dominated by automakers who are fighting Nissan for electric vehicle dominance.”
Asking to leave California’s many Leaf owners stranded, and to favor still non-existent owners of still non-existent EVs that comply with a still non-existent SAE standard, amounts to a real declaration of war, and a rather hamfisted one.
PS: While a spiky-haired President of Japan’s EV Club is on stage selling the idea of a massive round Japan EV rally, a source that requested anonymity whispers in my ear: “Forget it. This is Japan and the charging stations are closed at night.”