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Charging point players disagree on way ahead

Date: 06 April 2016   |   Author: Daniel Puddicombe

Major players in the electric charging point arena are undecided on the best format for UK charging infrastructure.

Last month (see BusinessCar, 22 March), Volvo announced it would back the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIn), a consortium that was founded by a number of car manufacturers to establish its Combined Charging System as the standard unit for charging electric vehicles in the future.

The Charging Interface Initiative said it is drawing up requirements for its proposed charging standards and certification for use by manufacturers around the world.

"We see that a shift towards fully electric cars is already underway, as battery technology improves, costs fall and charging infrastructure is put in place," said Peter Mertens, Volvo's senior vice-president for research and development. "But while we are ready from a technology perspective, the charging infrastructure is not quite there. To make range anxiety a thing of the past, a globally standardised charging system is needed."

David Martell, chief executive of leading chargepoint supplier Chargemaster, however, believes it is unlikely that a single standard will become common.

"As Japanese manufacturers, such as Nissan and Mitsubishi, use the alternative CHAdeMO standard for rapid charging, there is little likelihood of a single standard being practical across Europe in the next few years," he said.

"We do not, therefore, see that it is a major concern that no single standard is likely in the near term," he added.

However, Erik Fairbairn, CEO of Pod Point, said the suggestion "isn't quite as challenging as Volvo is making it out to be".

"We've all survived as a nation with petrol and diesel, and as individuals we rarely get that wrong, and I don't think there being two standards is an immensely difficult thing for the industry," he told BusinessCar.
"If there were 15 standards, I'd be all over this saying 'we need to get rid of these and nail down which one is going to win', but with there being a very small number of standards, you make sure you've got the right cable for your car, and it doesn't cause you any grief."

Ecotricity, which provides a network of charging stations across the country, also supports the movement towards a standardised system, but a spokesman said the source of the electricity is of greater importance:  "The more important question for us is ensuring the source of the electricity that powers the car is 100% renewable and not from coal or gas."

Chargepoint provider Evolt refused to comment, and Tesla failed to respond, although the American car maker recently joined CharIn.

The Combined Charging System offers regular and fast-charging capabilities in one device, using alternating current at a maximum of 43kW, as well as direct-current charging at a maximum of 200 kW, which could be upped to 350kW in future.