Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Did The DC Quick-Charging 'Standards War' Just Quietly End For Electric Cars?

A BMW i3 and a Volkswagen e-Golf charge on DC fast chargers side by side at BMW Headquarters in Woodcliff Lake NJ.
I wrote this article for Green Car Reports, where it was published a few days ago. The proliferation of a robust DC fast charge network is vital to electric vehicle adoption, and I wanted to give this story as wide an audience as possible, which is way I let GCR publish it first. Now that they had it for a while, I'd like to share it with the readers here.
I was invited up to BMW NA headquarters by BMW product manager Jose Guerrero to try out the new DC fast chargers installed there. There are three of them, along with four Level 2 EVSEs, all of which are open to the public 24/7.
A couple weeks ago at the DC Auto Show, BMW, Volkswagen, and ChargePoint jointly announced they would install about 100 DC fast chargers for electric cars. Their goal is to create “Express Charging Corridors,” on both the East and West coasts, by the end of this year. The most intriguing news, however, was that the hardware will--in most cases--offer fast charging for electric cars using two different standards: CCS (used by BMW and VW) and CHAdeMO, used by Japanese and Korean automakers.

The three DC fast chargers at BMW NA HQ are CCS only. The reason being is these are not directly included in the Express Charging Corridors, but secondary locations which are more likely to support local driving, not long distance traveling.
I say “most cases” because not every single location will have a dual-standard fast charger that provides CHAdeMO, although most will. Today, CHAdeMO stations are far more widely installed in certain areas--totaling several hundred in the U.S.--than CCS stations, of which only a few dozen exist today. The "Express Charging Corridor" project will determine whether a desired location is close to an existing CHAdeMO station. If so, that location will provide only CCS cables.

I suspect this may only happen in a few locations, largely on the West Coast, since the East Coast has very few operational CHAdeMO stations to date. The East Coast corridor will connect Boston to Washington, D.C., while the West Coast corridor will extend from Portland to San Diego. Both corridors will have DC fast chargers installed at intervals of less than 50 miles, making it possible--if tedious--to do long-distance trips in electric cars with ranges of 75 to 90 miles, including the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf.

Then, less than a week after the DC Auto Show, Kansas City Power & Light announced that it had partnered with Nissan and ChargePoint to install 1,000 electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the greater Kansas City region.

That in itself is fantastic news. But if you drill down into the press release, you will find that only 15 of the stations will be DC fast charge stations--a little disappointing. However, these 15 stations “will charge any model of electric vehicle on the market,” meaning they too will support both CHAdeMO and CCS. So BMW and Volkswagen’s project will provide CHAdeMO charging, and Nissan’s endeavor will include CCS support.

These Efacec units will be installed along the new "Express Charging Corridors" by ChargePoint and support both CHAdeMO and CCS
What just happened here?

Did the automakers all quietly agree to support both standards, so every electric-car driver can benefit? I interviewed BMW’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Manager, Robert Healey, on the morning of the DC Auto Show. He told me BMW has no problem with supporting dual-standard stations, because the main goal is to advance the proliferation of charging infrastructure for plug-in cars as rapidly as possible.
CHAdeMO and CCS connector side by side comparison.
He went on to say that in these early stages of adoption, “a rising tide raises all boats”--and this kind of cooperation among competitors is in everyone’s best interest. While he couldn’t elaborate or speculate on the future, Healey said he would be open to similar partnerships with other automakers, should the opportunity arise.

So it's looking more and more as though the DC fast-charge standards war that everyone was predicting may be over, really before the first shot was even fired. I hope so, because if this trend continues, everybody indeed wins. Especially electric-car drivers--not only today's, but the many more to come.


  1. Great news. Hopefully this will continue with all new fast charger installations. In fact, it should be mandated by law if any portion on the cost includes public funds.

  2. Well, when KCP&L and Nissan say they will support all cars could that mean that they will have a CHAdeMO and a L2 plug akin to what eVgo is doing so far??

    Or should we trust that regardles of who the partner with ChargePoint will set order and install all three CHAdeMO, CCS and L2?

    1. While ChargePoint is the common denominator and definitely has influence here, Nissan, BMW and any other manufacturer has do agree to supporting the other standard. It's looking more and more like that is whats happening and the OEM's are agreeing that supporting both standards is ultimately good for everybody in the long run.