Recent and upcoming EVs are designed for DC fast charging speeds of 100 kW and more, and are overwhelmingly favouring CCS as the standard charging architecture. Next-generation charging networks in Europe and the US are also favouring CCS. Despite its early lead, CHAdeMO now looks to be falling behind.
Quick History Lesson
CHAdeMO, the DC charging standard formalised by Japanese manufacturers and Japanese power companies in early 2010, was the first and only DC charging option until the emergence of CCS in 2012–2013. CHAdeMO originated out of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s DC connector design. TEPCO had trialled numerous EV infrastructure projects between 2006 and 2009 in collaboration with Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Subaru (amongst others). The Mitsubishi i-MiEV was the first mass-produced EV to go into production with a CHAdeMO port from 2009 onwards, and was quickly followed by the Nissan Leaf.
CCS (Combined Charging System) got started in early 2011 as a collaboration between the SAE (a mainly US technical standards organisation that has close links to GM) and the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. The headline idea behind CCS was that the design allowed for both AC and DC charging to be combined within a single plug design (thus Combined Charging System). CHAdeMO plugs are DC only, with EVs required to have an additional and separate AC plug.
There was no doubt some politics involved, with US and European automakers concerned about CHAdeMO becoming the de facto standard in the wake the Nissan LEAF’s arrival as the first (and initially unchallenged) high-volume EV. The contemporary Chevy Volt had only AC charging on board, with a plug design based on the 2009 SAE J1772-2009 specification. That specification would later provide the AC component of the CCS design. Meanwhile, the TEPCO standard that CHAdeMO was based on had patents attached and TEPCO was pushing to license it out for operational infrastructure in the US and elsewhere — from at least late 2009 onwards. Whatever the technical merits (or otherwise) of the CHAdeMO standard, it had its origins in a domestic Japanese design that could be argued to have not gone through channels at international standardisation organisations. This alone must have irked US and European automakers.
A proposal for the CCS standard was formally put forward by the Association of German Engineers in October 2011. By April 2012 it had the backing of several US and European automakers, and a working version was demonstrated in May 2012. The first public CCS charger was unveiled in June 2013 at VW’s Wolfsburg factory, quickly followed by another outside a BMW factory. Since at least June 2013, all parties involved in CCS and CHAdeMO standards have officially advocated that multi-standard chargers are the way to go — that is, charging stalls with both plug types available — which are claimed to cost only 5% more than single-standard chargers.
EV Makers Starting to Defect
Some manufacturers who initially implemented the CHAdeMO standard on their EVs have jumped ship to CCS in recent years.
The PSA group’s early EVs were clones of the Mitsubishi i-MiEV and thus also used CHAdeMO, as did their early light commercial vehicles. From recent announcements, it’s now clear that future PSA group EVs will use CCS.
Kia’s first-gen Soul EV used CHAdeMO, but both Hyundai and Kia have since turned their support to CCS. Notwithstanding the Japanese origins of CHAdeMO, Honda’s 2017 Clarity PHEV has also gone the CCS route.
Along with Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV and the Prius Prime PHEV, Nissan is now one of the few automakers still going the CHAdeMO route outside of Japan (the BMW i3 still has CHAdeMO implemented in its Japanese version).
Next Nissan Leaf
From the photo leaks we have seen, the next-generation 60 kWh LEAF appears to stick with CHAdeMO. If that’s the case, it may be the only mainstream BEV to do so. Is this the right strategy for Nissan?
One of the outstanding characteristics of the new LEAF is that it allows charging up to at least 102 kW (see above image). That’s great on paper, but there is pitifully little existing CHAdeMO infrastructure on the ground in either the US or Europe that allows for DC power delivering over 50 kW. In Europe as a whole, as of the end of last month (October 2018), there are 107 charging locations with 100+ kW CCS chargers, but only 18 locations with 100+ kW CHAdeMO chargers (data from goingelectric.de). All of the latter CHAdeMO locations also have CCS 100+ kW chargers on site. The European Ionity network, with its 350 kW chargers, is CCS only. The European Fastned network has mostly 50 kW CHAdeMO and CCS chargers at each location, but newer locations are now offering 175 kW CCS — but still with only 50 kW CHAdeMO. The coming Ultra-E infrastructure project, with 175+ kW chargers, will also favour CCS.
Meanwhile, in the US, the Electrify America network has both CHAdeMO and CCS equipment, but its CHAdeMO plugs top out at 50 kW, whereas the CCS plugs offer 150–350 kW.
This being the case, it would not seem to make sense for Nissan to stick with CHAdeMO for its 60 kWh LEAF, certainly not in Europe and likely also not in the US. Because of the paucity of next-gen CHAdeMO infrastructure, unless Nissan switches to CCS, it effectively renders the LEAF’s fast-charging capabilities severely uncompetitive relative to other affordable fast charging EVs coming from Hyundai–Kia, VW, Tesla, and others.
What do you think? Should Nissan bite the bullet and make the switch to CCS? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
(Of course, Nissan has other issues on its plate right now.)