The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, has taken its sweet time settling on a new fast charging standard for American and European automakers. This week the SAE finally revealed their new fast EV charger, which combines both Level 2 and Level 3 charging in a single plug. This will eventually allow for charging times as quick as ten minutes.
The new SAE-approved charging system is called “Combo,” and it will be backwards-compatible with current Level 2 Charging stations. But it will not be compatible with either the Japanese-designed “Chademo” system, nor Tesla’s proprietary “Supercharger” network. There’s a storm a-brewin’ folks, and if history is any indicator only one of these chargers will survive.
Cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV use two different charging stations; one for the Level 2 Charger, and one for the fast-charging Level 3 unit that allows for a 90% charge in as little as 30 minutes. Having two plugs requires a larger space on the car dedicated to refueling, whereas the gas cap on most of today’s cars is comparatively small. Both the Combo and Chademo systems use direct current for their Level 3 systems, as opposed to the alternating current of Level 1 and Level 2 systems.
The SAE believes their two-in-one plug will allow for a cleaner design, and it has the backing of both European and American automakers. Companies like Ford have held back on including fast charging on their current crop of EVs including the Focus Electric, and now we know why.
Patriotism aside, it seems the newer Combo charging system has some advantages over both the Japanese Chademo and Tesla’s Supercharger charging systems. With both U.S. and European automakers backing this style of charging, there are volume issues to consider. The two-in-one design also appears to be superior at least in the sense that it allows for less space dedicated to charging.
Ultimately, consumers will have to decide which system reigns supreme. The Combo charger’s design makes a lot of sense, but ultimately it could come down to whoever can market their charger better, which unit is faster, and ultimately what charging stations are most widely available. The SAE hopes to eventually deliver charging times in as little as ten minutes…though they probably wouldn’t recommend doing it too often. Too much fast charging will kill even a large battery pack pretty quickly.
is just a single Chademo charger is just a handful of Chademo chargers scattered across the U.S. right now, and Tesla has installed just four of its own Superchargers, so really it is anybody’s market right now. The Combo charger will debut on the Chevy Spark EV sometime next year. Which charging system is your money on?