Battle of the Plug looming

Anybody who is a frequent flyer will tell you of the plethora of different plug designs and voltages that you will encounter when you stop and try to recharge your phone or computer. The same is the true for Electric Vehicles whereby manufacturers seem to be going their own separate ways when it comes to not only how you plug in, but also what current the juice is supplied.

It’s unlike hydrocarbon-powered cars, whereby over the years there has emerged a standard grade of petrol and pump and thus you can happily drive your car from, well, Paris to Dakar if you want, using the local refuelling infrastructure. Not so for EV’s though, with each manufacturer seemingly championing a particular solution and this has started to worry some of the industry heavyweights who see the lack of conformity as a major obstacle in the path towards alternative and greener powered vehicles.

With different plug types and voltage requirements, manufacturers would have to create a distribution network for their own designs if they want to truly address the issue of range anxiety. At the front of the drive to create an industry standard is Volvo, who has plans to create a plug-in hybrid variant for all of its new models over the coming years, and who will launch its very own electric vehicle sometime in 2019.

Volvo has thrown its weight behind what is known as the Charging Interface Initiative (CII), after realising that the shift to fully electric cars is already underway. The world seems to be ready from a technology perspective as battery technology improves and cost falls, but that still leaves the lack of charging infrastructure to be addressed. Therefore, the CII is on a mission to create a global standard for recharging infrastructure that will enable any EV to travel free from the range restriction that still plague the Electric Vehicle variants.

Volvo is suggesting a combined Charging System (CCS) as the solution, whereby both regular and fast charging could be combined in the one location, making it more practical and convenient to own an EV. This system simply combines both the single phase and relatively slow recharging station with a rapid three phase AC running at 43kW and a DC current running at 200kW, with the view to upgrade in the future to 300kW on the same system.

Presently, most US-built EV’s take an SAE combination plug whilst in Europe the Mennekes Type 2 plug is becoming ubiquitous, as the CHAdeMO DC quick-charging plug has failed to gain market acceptance. Of course, our old friends over at Tesla have gone their own way, but at least they have opened up their patented plug and recharge technology for other automakers to use.

Over at Porsche, a recent announcement outlines the development of a Mission E Saloon car which is supposed to be working on an 800-volt recharging system that would take a mere 15 minutes to get an 80% charge, which would seem to indicate that the idea of recharging conformity is not getting through to the car manufacturing industry just yet.


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