SAE Unified Charging plug

GM and Nissan trade punches over electric car fast charging

At a public hearing today convened by California Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett to discuss Electric Vehicle Deployment, representatives of GM and Nissan sparred over electric car fast charging standards.

A big battle is being fought over the charging socket of electric cars, one in which billions of dollars in coming infrastructure expenditures and market share are at stake, as well as the success of mainstream electric vehicle adoption. Today a very instructive pair of salvos were fired during a public California State Senate Committee meeting, chaired by State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, on the topic of Electric Vehicle Deployment. In the exchange a GM representative called to limit adoption of DC Fast Chargers to only those which conform to the upcoming SAE DC Fast Charge standard, while a Nissan representative described the CHADEMO connector, available on the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and Nissan Leaf, as the only existing fast charging standard, and one that meets the needs of todays market.

The broad ranging committee meeting took testimony on the state of California's electric vehicle deployment, on the manufacturers perspective regarding California's electric vehicle deployment, and on electric vehicle infrastructure issues. The shots between GM and Nissan took only 10 minutes out of the 2+ hours of the meeting, and offered a glimpse into the battle being fought between the automakers for dominance in electric cars.

CHADEMO was developed in Japan, and was first deployed for electric vehicle charging by TEPCO beginning in 2008. Data from that time shows that when the CHADEMO network was installed, electric car utilization shot way up. The assumption is that the existence of fast charging infrastructure goes a long ways to erasing range anxiety, giving electric car owners the freedom of mind to drive their cars. There is every expectation that as fast charging networks are built in the U.S. the same will occur. But there is a battle brewing between two competing standards for DC Fast Charging, the CHADEMO standard being used now by Nissan and Mitsubishi, and the SAE DC Fast Charging standard being pushed by GM and an alliance of 8 total car manufacturers.

In the meantime states and charging network operators are getting ready to build DC Fast Charging networks, with CHADEMO. California's settlement with NRG that enabled building a large charging station network in California, is in part an endorsement of CHADEMO. 350Green is building networks in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Chicago, of CHADEMO fast charging stations.

These are stakes on the table. Electric vehicle adoption and utilization will be helped tremendously with networks of fast charging stations. There is a battle for market position, with GM and Nissan being the primary players with electric cars on the market. There is an existing standard (CHADEMO) with years of experience behind it, versus a new standard, that might be available in cars next year, if all goes right. And we have states and corporations spending money today on electric car DC fast charging network deployment.

GM's Shad Balch, Manager of Environment & Energy Policy, let loose the opening salvo when naming off a series of priorities GM has that will aid electric vehicle adoption. The first three priorities were very uncontroversial, focusing on making it easier for individuals and businesses to deploy electric car charging station infrastructure, and to ensure the public infrastructure is built in places where it will be used.

His final point was on standards, starting by noting the industry had successfully settled on the J1772 charging connector. In the previous era of electric vehicle adoption, only 10 years ago, the various automakers made different choices for charging plugs. It meant the charging infrastructure installed at that time cost twice as much as it should have cost, because each installation had to install both kinds of charging stations. It was a pain that "we" do not want to repeat again., and J1772 was the solution.

Balch went on to describe the current situation as a "hodgepodge of fast charging standards" with Tesla having its own proprietary level 3 system, Nissan and Mitsubishi using CHADEMO. He noted that last week, at EVS26, an alliance of 8 automakers (including GM) announced support for a the "combo plug" designed by the SAE DC Fast Charging committee. He described this as "a new standard," one "that is going to come, probably before the end of this year," meaning the SAE committee is expected to approve the standard this summer, charging stations are expected to become available late in the year, and cars to become available in 2013.

The bombshell then landed when Balch said "we need to make sure, especially because we're talking about taxpayer money, that ONLY those standards are installed going forward." Meaning that because the SAE DC Fast Charge standard is the only "standardized" fast charging system, this is the system to endorse. Balch was actually boooo'd at this point, but he went on to remind us of the past history, that we know its a bad move to have competing charging connector standards. Finally, he said "there is a very small group of cars that use a non-standardized level 3 charging connector," referring to the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV and the upcoming Tesla Model S.

David Peterson, Nissan's West Coast Project Manager covering Zero Emission Mobility, spoke immediately after Balch, and he launched almost immediately into tossing an answering salvo. He noted first that Nissan is bringing to market, this summer, what will be the lowest cost DC Fast Charger, costing 1/3rd-2/3rds the price of competitive charging stations. He also noted that Nissan has sold 30,000 Leaf's worldwide since the late 2010 launch, making it the most widely deployed electric car to date.

Speaking about CHADEMO, Peterson noted it is the only standard which exists on the market today, and it is the only standard which will charge the 12,000 Leaf's on U.S. roads today. Nissan predicts it will take some time for the SAE DC Fast Charging standard to truly get underway, regardless of the status of standardization. He went on to point to the need for a truly global standard, for example China has developed their own DC Fast Charging standard that is incompatible with everything else. Finally, the CHADEMO standard has proved itself in multiple applications, and can serve not only vehicle fast charging, but vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid applications. It is Nissan's belief that CHADEMO meets or exceeds the needs of todays market.

Let's tease this apart a little bit.

First, Balch's statement is broadly implying that California is wasting its money in deploying a CHADEMO network, and that California should wait until the SAE DC Fast Charge system becomes available in cars. The NRG settlement requires NRG to begin building Freedom Stations this year, with 20% of the California eVgo network to be built by the end of 2012. By the terms of the settlement NRG has no choice but to install CHADEMO stations.

Second, GM wins the Volt/Leaf battle if CHADEMO deployments are thwarted. That is, a major advantage of the Leaf is the CHADEMO fast charging port, but that advantage can only be realized if there is a wide-spread CHADEMO network in existence. If CHADEMO network deployment can be thwarted, Leaf owners will be unable to enjoy the fast charging port built into their cars, and the Leaf looks less attractive as a result.

Third, there is a fine distinction being drawn here. Balch (GM) called CHADEMO a non-standardized system, while Peterson (Nissan) calls it a standard. The problem with standards is there are so many of them to choose from. CHADEMO was defined by the CHADEMO Association, and that group declared CHADEMO to be a standard. The SAE is a wide ranging standards body for the automobile industry.

Fourth, Balch's point about a single standard are spot on. For example it is the NEMA standards for electrical outlets that let us buy any gizmo from any electronics vendor and just plug it into any power socket. We should have that freedom with electric cars as well, and the history 10 years ago is very appropos.

Fifth, the opposition by the SAE committee to CHADEMO goes back a few years, with some claiming the SAE committee is blocking adoption of CHADEMO on political grounds rather than on technical grounds. The SAE committee has its rationale for rejecting CHADEMO in preference to the combo plug, specifically that the combo plug means only one hole in the car's exterior, while CHADEMO requires two holes. Additionally the SAE combo plug supports single phase AC, three phase AC, and DC Fast Charging, all using one socket. But the SAE committee is dominated by automakers who are fighting Nissan for electric vehicle dominance.

Speaking following the meeting, NRG's spokesperson, Terry O'Day, noted that the settlement between NRG and California does require that, as the SAE fast charging standard becomes available, that it be deployed to eVgo Freedom Stations. At least three CHADEMO charging station manufacturers (ABB, Eaton, and Schneider Electric) are planning to support the SAE standard.

It's hard to predict the future until it happens. CHADEMO is an existing standard having proven itself, and is in cars that are shipping in volume. The 8 manufacturers in the SAE combo plug alliance are, with the exception of GM, either not shipping electric cars, or are doing so in very limited production volumes. As Nissan and Mitsubishi sell more cars, CHADEMO becomes more entrenched as a "de-facto standard". On the other hand the manufacturers behind the SAE combo plug may, in the due course of time, also step up to the plate and ship electric cars in quantity. While it's true that the ultimate decider is the consumer, this sort of battle skews the choices the consumers actually have. Those of us who owned Beta VCR's back in the day know that the technically better standard sometimes loses.

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Comments

Great reporting! A better example is HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray. The suppliers went with Blu-ray simply because there were more Blu-ray devices sold. How can spend money on the SAE combo plug when there are absolutely zero cars that use it? That is the very definition of vaporware, the cars don't exist. The combo plug is literally un-useable.
Brian, I think your point of 6 months ago deserves a second round of banter. There still in not one electric vehicle produced today that uses this SAE standard. Also, Does NRG have any of the 20% of the charging stations they were mandated to have installed by the end of 2012 installed in CA. they were awarded 160 million dollars for. There is only 5 weeks left in the year. Just saying. Rhonda Walton EVO2GOsolarV2X
eVgo's clock does not start ticking until 30 days have passed after the FERC approval. That's what eVgo's press guy told me a couple weeks ago when the FERC approved the deal. eVgo (per Terry O'Day) already has plans of where to roll out the first round of charging stations, because while they weren't able to move ahead with the project until FERC approved, they hired a staff of people to start the plans anyway.
Just because the cars supporting Combo will not be available until early 2013 is not a reason not to deploy the Combo infrastructure beforehand. Indeed to support volume adoption of the Combo plug cars, the charging stations must be installed first. From early 2013, BMW i3 will be available as well as VW Up followed by Renault and then BMW's i8. That leads me to anther point, which is that the GM led and SAE endorsed standard will be supported by nine car manufacturers not eight. Renault did not participate in the EVS26 announcement of eight, but announced support for this standard separately. One benefit of the SAE standard is that it is also supported by the ACEA in Europe, something which CHAdeMO is not. So there is USA/EU agreement, but it is not perfect without Japan, South Korea and China, all of which have gone in different directions.
I'm obviously biased since I own a car with a CHADEMO plug, however, the statement by Balch "we need to make sure, especially because we're talking about taxpayer money, that ONLY those standards are installed going forward." should make anyone who ever wanted an electric vehicle go back and watch Who Killed the Electric Car one more time.... Detroit is still trying to deny you the coolest tech since the cell phone..... 18,000 miles of.... debate on, My LEAF is the nicest, daily driver I have ever had by such a gap that it isn't worth my time to try to explain. (Vehicle list for comparison I've owned.. MB E420, E320, 190E, Mini Cooper S, Acura Integra, Honda Civic, CRX. VW Jetta TD) Thank you Nissan.
Infighting is never a good thing when the larger value remains rapid rollout of vehicle electrification. The fact that the big automakers have been slow to come to the dance should tell us something about their motives. They are having to be drawn into the product line by consumers, rather than leading like Nissan. I think a combo plug looks ridiculous and is unwieldy for smaller hands (aka women). Beyond that it will slow up the investment in infrastructure. What is the real problem with Chademo? Besides the fact that Nissan and Mitsubishi are using it?
CHAdeMO is undeniably quite a good charging method, despite not being a standard, but it does have its drawbacks. The SAE and ACEA have tried to address some of the drawbacks of CHAdeMO and with broad support from the motor industry, something which CHAdeMO never had, came up with one plug that supports fast AC charging (43kW and semi fast 22kW) as well as DC up to 100 kW when that standard is ratified and implemented into vehicles. So nothing against CHAdeMO, which I have used a number of times without a hitch, but things have moved on and a better system to ;become a standard is just around the corner in the form of Combo (one socket for all charging methods). Technically CHAdeMO works, but is clearly not as rounded or fully featured as Combo.
First, the fact that the big automakers have been slow to come to the dance DOES tell us something about their motives: That they prioritize a MATURE FUTURE PROOF charging system, i.e. Combo, over a fast entry into the market with an immature system that does not fulfill future needs Second, YOU might think that a combo plug looks ridiculous, but this is not about looking nice or ridiculous or whatever, but about a future proof standard that meets the requirements of the industry and the consumers. Third, you have to be kidding when you say that a combo(!) plug is unwieldy for smaller hands (aka women). The CHAdeMO plug is much HEAVIER and BIGGER than a combo plug!!!
The two connectors are equally unweildy
Both will be replaced within 10 years with the next generation plug, likely more like the Tesla plug for cars requiring this power level (50kW to 100kW). Then, everything might go inductive, and never plug in.
This is the same GM that in the late 90's forced Toyota's Rav4 EVs into their inductive charging system. That system, although safe, added complexity to charging an Electric Vehicle and was a bad bet by GM. This is the same GM that has no all-electric cars in the market. Why doesn't GM adopts a known, proven fast DC charging system? Hopefully this "future" SAE combo connector will be dead before it shows up in any vehicle.
If I were buying an EV today, I would vue this multi-standard controversy with trepidation. I would think for the small increase in price (A few hundred) I want both the SAE multi plug with dc or ac input capability and a CHAdeMO input also. so I can use any EVSE that might be available. If there is some way to fabricate an adapter for CHAdeMO to SAE I and many others would buy one in a second! (Entrepreneurs take notice !) Just as I own a J1772 adapter for 120v home outlets and 240@30A "Dryer" outlets so I can charge at my friend's homes. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Interested in Electric Vehicles? Considering a new Career in an EV related business? Any Career related to EV will require specific knowledge of EV Products and Practice. Effective Service and Repair of Electric Vehicles, Retrofitting cars into Battery Electric Vehicles, and Entrepreneurship. The Electric Vehicle Technical Institute inc. is pleased to announce a quick course in Service and Repair, for Electric Vehicles. And Retrofitting or Conversion of Modern Automobiles to Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV). This Hands-On course will allow trainees to participate in Retrofitting of several modern vehicles thus gaining True Hands-On Experience. Also classic trouble shooting, from observed symptoms followed by demonstrations of the repairs and discussions of industry practices for replacement with new or rebuilt parts, and which is appropriate; discussions will include: Highway vehicles, Motorcycles, Mobility Scooters, Neighborhood Vehicles and Golf Carts. Explanations will be included for Hybrid updating to Plug-in, Extending the hybrid's battery range, and several styles of conversion to hybrid for experienced cars. This course includes an Entrepreneurship unit to improve small business success skills. Dennis Miles ("EV Professor") Phone: (863)944-9913 [Noon to Midnight Eastern] More Information available on Website: Just "Google:" .Electric Vehicle Technical Institute
It looks like we have one GM employee posting "answers" for us. It looks like the talking points are: 1. ChadeMo not "a standard"... with over 1200 deployed worldwide and 30,000 cars that can use them today. 2. SAE frankenplug is a standard... but not a single charger or vehicle exists that can use that "standard" exists on planet earth. I'll add that even the SAE says that full deployment would not happen until 2017. 3. ChadeMo is Japanese (obviously bad) 4. SAE is "way better"... even though it hasn't even been approved by SAE yet. 5. The world would be better is Nissan and the ChadeMo would just disappear. Good luck Government Motors. There's a reason you've been bankrupt and perpetually behind the rest of the world.
If I am the person you are referring to as a "GM employee" then let me disclose that I am based in Europe and work as an independent e-mobility consultant to national government ministries, municipalities and private enterprise. In the course of my work, I met 10 days ago with a representative of CHAdeMO Association from Japan and prior to that with ACEA (European equivalent to SAE) and have been following developments for quite a while. On the standards question, it is true that Combo is not yet a standard, but there is now broad agreement and the process is underway. Secondly, CHAdeMO is not a standard either, but I am aware that it is currently going through the standardisation process, so it is likely to become one. But it importantly, whilst CHAdeMO will become "a standard" Combo will become "the standard". In Europe, five German manufacturers including BMW, Daimler Benz, VW, Audi and Porsche have accepted Combo, so GM is simply one more company joined in this alliance together with French car maker Renault (Nissan-Renault alliance) and US car makers Ford and Chrysler. If Nissan and Mitsubishi choose to stay with CHAdeMO that is their choice, just like Tesla Model S choosing a proprietary DC charging architecture that operates at 90kW. That's the free market for you...
Yes, you were the person I was referring to. ChadeMo is having their convention this week in Japan. By the way, you left out the Renault 43kW AC charger for yet another fast charging option. I agree that there should be a world standard, and so far, ChadeMo is it de facto. With almost 1400 deployed worldwide, including over 200 in the EU. You might not know that the J1772 that your "Combo" is based on is a Japanese design by Yazaki that GM did not adopt until the Volt. I'm confident you want this to be "the" standard. So did Sony for the Betamax. Good luck. Tony
Ashley, I forgot to bring up this point (I'm sure you have a prepared, paid for spin on this). In the US, the plug will be J1772-DC Frankenplug that we've seen many pictures of over the past year or two. In Europe, however, it will be Mennekes with the two extra DC ports that I have not seen a picture of yet. My understanding is that there will be no Mennekes connectors used in the US and if you import a Euro-market car directly from Europe with the Euro specification Frankenplug, it won't work in the US without an adapter. It's not really sounding like the glorious world standard the politburo has instructed you to say. Do I have all that right?
@ Tony Williams: > ... it won't work in the US without an adapter Dude, are you aware of the fact that when you import a car from Europe, it will expect 240V on the AC lines and not 110V as in the US???? Talking about adapters ... > ...that I have not seen a picture of yet. Just google for "combo 2 plug dc Mennekes", Dude! Lots of pictures!!! Geee...
@ Tony Williams: > ... it won't work in the US without an adapter Are you aware of the fact that when you import a car from Europe, it will expect 240V on the AC lines and not 110V as in the US???? Talking about adapters ... > ...that I have not seen a picture of yet. Just google for "combo 2 plug dc Mennekes"! Lots of pictures!!! Geee...
@ Tony Williams: > ... it won't work in the US without an adapter Are you aware of the fact that when you import a car from Europe, it will expect 240V on the AC lines and not 110V as in the US???? Talking about adapters ... > ...that I have not seen a picture of yet. Just google for "combo 2 plug dc Mennekes"! Lots of pictures!!! Geee...
@ Tony Williams: > ... it won't work in the US without an adapter Are you aware of the fact that when you import a car from Europe, it will expect 240V on the AC lines and not 110V as in the US???? Talking about adapters ... > ...that I have not seen a picture of yet. Just google for "combo 2 plug dc Mennekes"! Lots of pictures!!! Geee...
The work done by the SAE and ACEA and the progress made in TEC (Trans-Atlantic Economic Cooperation) is focussed on the vehicle inlet side involving an "envelope" solution capable of supporting single phase AC, three phase AC and DV charging. It is recognised that the electricity system between Europe and the US is quite different, but the joint ACEA/SAE solution caters for both. There are a number of advantages of the Combo plug over CHAdeMO with the most obvious being AC support up to 43kW and ultra fast DC charging. But there is also the introduction of advanced communication functionality including smart grid integration plus the opportunity to implement additional IP based services. The Combo plug (without any spin) simply integrates AC and DC charging using one combined inlet, one charge protocol, one implementation of charging communication and one electric architecture for charging. I do not oppose CHAdeMO, but Combo is clearly the evolution of EV charging with broader support by way of AC, DC fast AC, ultra fast DC etc and economies by hosting just one vehicle inlet. Finally, in addition to the announcement from vehicle manufacturers at EVS26, there are many more supporting Combo which did not participate in that announcement. Those include DAF, Fiat, Jaguar Land Rover, MAN, PSA, Renault, Scania, Volvo, AB Volvo and perhaps somewhat surprisingly Toyota Motor Europe (a member of the CHAdeMO alliance). I recognise that we are not yet in nirvana, with Japan, China and Korea all pursuing different charging protocols and connectors, but significantly from the European side, the ACEA supports IEC standardisation in search of a global standard, which at this time admittedly looks somewhat elusive. As for Mennekes, this plus will be replaced on the vehicle inlet side but will continue for the foreseeable future as the plug for AC charging on the side of AC charging stations, so there is no contradiction with this. Unlike CHAdeMO it will work with Combo.
Can't this be solved with an adapter? Deploy SAE (if it is truly better) and create an adapter that every CHADEMO and Tesla vehicle could use at an SAE "pump."
No, it cannot be solved with an adapter. CHAdeMO and Combo use different protocols and therefore different chipsets. Schneider Electric however have announced that they will offer upgrades of certain CHAdeMO stations to Combo and we need to wait to see of other vendors follow suit. Siemens never made CHAdeMO stations, but from 2013 will have a Combo offerings, because they are looking for the volume market as opposed to niche markets.
Tesla will be able to make an adapter for SAE (but not CHAdeMO), as the new tesla connector is already the same power wise (but not size/shape) -- if earlier reports are true and its just like J1772, the tesla roadster connector and j1772 were basically the same electronically, just the connector shape being different.
>>>> because they are looking for the volume market as opposed to niche markets. <<< I have to hand it to you; you're good at your business. Niche equals almost every DC charged electric car in the world, ChadeMo, and "volume" is your prized Frankenplug. One of your pals at GM was working hard at the state of California last week to not only make SAE "it", but to also stop ChadeMo, since according to him, "there can only be one standard". I don't agree that there can or will be one standard, as the Chinese have one, too. And there's likely to be a next standard, maybe inductive, come along in the next 10 years that makes both the Frankenplug and ChadeMo mute. You have an uphill battle, but clearly GM and it's cohorts have open the "flood gates" of mis-information. I wonder how many more paid consultants will be responding to this?
Since ChadeMo's are the actual chargers deployed in the world, I suspect GM and BMW will be looking for an adapter from their Frankenplug to ChadeMo chargers!! The Soviets did a wise thing with their 7.62mm bullets. They made them just different enough from the 7.62mm NATO bullets so that the Soviet bullets wouldn't work in the NATO weapon. However, the NATO bullets would work in their weapon. This is a bit how this SAE thing is going down. They developed a standard that is absolutely not compatible with the existing world standard. Then they got together a group to try and slow down the undisputed world leader in electric cars, Nissan, while they play catch up. What better way than this standards game. Yes, there is no question that they could have made it compatible with both the J1772 and ChadeMo, so that only an adapter would be required. But they chose the "Soviet" route. The good news is that most of these 9 listed car manufacturers that have joined up with Government Motors won't be producing many electric cars, and the ones that they will be building will be very low volume, in many cases to simply comply with California rules (so that they can sell there cars here). BMW, frankly, is the only exception here in the USA, and their cars are likely to be too expensive to be delivered in any large volumes. The GM spark is a "compliance" car, which again means they'll build just enough to meet the California rules. That means that the flagship for the current world defacto standard, Nissan, will have hundreds of thousands of ChadeMo cars on the road then. Will Nissan jump ship? Sure, if the other standard becomes viable. Not much sweat off their brow. But, again, I suspect it will be the pompous attitude displayed toward Nissan being "the small player" in the EV game that will keep them in the game.
> Since ChadeMo's are the actual chargers deployed in the world, I suspect GM and BMW will be looking for an adapter from their Frankenplug to ChadeMo chargers!! You just revealed that you have no clue whatsoever of the technical contents of the two "standards". They are so different that an adapter from one "standard" to the other is not possible! You wrote it yourself: "They developed a standard that is absolutely not compatible with the existing world standard." But then it cannot be the "Soviet route" as you describe that (i.e. compatible in one direction but not in the other)!
I think you misunderstood my point. GM has made sure that the SAE standard is the "Soviet" one, but because there are no SAE chargers, when they finally get their California Air Resource Board (CARB) compliant cars on the road in the minimum quantity to meet the Zero Emssions Vehicle (ZEV) standards in California, THEY WILL BE THE ONES looking for an adapter (that won't exist). As pointed out above, still no SAE cars or SAE chargers. There are about 1700 CHAdeMO chargers now around the world, with 242 in Europe and about 100 in the USA. Still zero Frankenplug chargers or Frankenplug cars. Also, with the singular exception of BMW, all announced Frankenplug vehicles are CARB compliance cars to be built in minimal numbers.