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Fast Charging is Key to Accelerating Electric Vehicle Growth

18 July 2013

With the demise of electric vehicle (EV) battery-swap station innovator Better Place, fast-charging technologies are expected to drive the growth of the worldwide EV recharging market, with the number of stations growing more than 10 times by 2020, according to a new report from IHS Automotive.

Fast-charging stations for electric vehicles are set to reach nearly 200,000 cumulative locations globally in 2020, up from 5,900 cumulative locations in 2013. Next year, the number of fast-charging stations is expected to more than double to 15,000 cumulative units.

Expansion will then continue to be strong throughout the forecast horizon, with annual growth reaching 44,400 fast-charging stations, up from 4,100 stations in 2013.

Despite the promising prospects, the length of time it takes to recharge an EV continues to be one of the major stumbling blocks inhibiting the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Compared to the time that it takes to refuel an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle, the recharge time for EVs is incredibly slow-clocking in at about four hours to charge a 24 kWh-capacity battery using a 6.6 kW on-board charger.

If EV auto manufacturers can overcome this obstacle, a higher rate of adoption could result from environmentally minded consumers as well as those seeking to cut gasoline expenses.

That's where fast charging comes in. Hooked up to a fast-charging system, which offers a high-voltage DC charge instead of a slower AC charge, a vehicle can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes. This could be a major step toward electric vehicles becoming generally equivalent to ICE vehicles when it comes to refueling.

IHS believes fast charging is a necessary step toward the higher adoption of EVs, but better consumer education may also be needed on the behavioral changes required in owning an electric vehicle, such as adjusting to the time that must be spent in charging an EV overnight or at work.

Finding CHAdeMO

One fast-charging standard designed for electric vehicles is dubbed CHAdeMO, a primarily Japanese-backed technology. The major proponents of the technology are Japanese automotive original equipment manufacturers including Toyota, Nissan, Mitsubishi; and Japanese industrial giants such as Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

CHAdeMO, roughly translated as "charge for moving," began deployment in 2009 in order to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in Japan, where EVs have found positive reception. Today there are as many as 2,445 CHAdeMO fast chargers in operation and more than 57,000 CHAdeMO-compatible EVs around the world. This accounts for as much as 80 percent of all electric vehicles on the road, especially given the high concentration of EVs coming from Japan in the form of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEv, Honda Fit EV and other similar vehicles.

Pleasing everyone

A competing solution to CHAdeMO, aptly named the combined charging system (CCS), offers electric-vehicle owners the option of having one single charging inlet that can be used for all available charging methods. That includes 1-phase charging at an AC power source, high-speed AC charging with a 3-phase current connector at home or at public charging stations, DC charging at conventional household installation and DC fast charging at power charging stations globally.

CCS, which was submitted for international standardization in January 2011, has garnered the support of Audi, BMW, Daimler, Chrysler, Ford, GM, Porsche and Volkswagen. Already BMW, GM and Volkswagen have announced they will introduce fast-charging EVs based on the CCS standard sometime this year.

Going it alone

Tesla Motors, the California-based company best known for the all-electric Tesla Model S, is driving a third way for fast charging. Tesla is developing its own, proprietary network of fast chargers in the U.S., dubbed "superchargers." The chargers operate at a higher power rating than current CHAdeMO or CCS chargers, and also feature a proprietary plug interface that can be used by Tesla vehicles alone. In addition to the proprietary technology, the charging stations are free to use for Tesla owners, and there are plans to power all stations using photovoltaics.

These "superchargers" represent a powerful proposition for Tesla-drivers can charge faster, enjoy U.S.-wide coverage by 2015, and charge for free for life. This triple threat will aim to lock drivers in to the Tesla experience and also give Tesla a perceived advantage over other OEMs competing in the same market.

Future charge

Looking ahead to the future for EVs, it's clear that DC charging is becoming the favored means of supporting rapid, range-extension electric vehicles. But it is less clear as to whether CHAdeMO or CCS will win the battle for the consumer.

Japan will continue to utilize CHAdeMO, while Germany is set on using CCS with other countries also likely to utilize CCS because it promotes supports slow-charging. No matter which solution is used, DC-based fast charging will be critical in promoting consumer approval and interest in EVs.

Read more >> Automotive Infotainment & Telematics

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