Growing EV Industry Still Divided Over DC Charging

By · July 13, 2011

Mitsubishi i Fast Charging

The Mitsubishi i has an optional DC fast charging port that utilizes CHAdeMO technology.

The plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) arena will soon get more crowded as automakers Mitsubishi and Toyota are in the final stages of preparing to compete head on with the Nissan LEAF and the Chevrolet Volt in North America. While the new entrants agree that there is great enthusiasm for PEVs, their contrary views on fast charging of vehicles reinforces the split that is complicating investment in infrastructure.

Mitsubishi will begin delivering the 2012 Mitsubishi i battery electric vehicle (BEV) in November to dealerships on the West Coast as well as in Hawaii, according to David Patterson, the company’s chief engineer for mobile emissions. Sales of the vehicle in Japan (sold there as the i-MiEV) have been brisk, Patterson said, stating, “we can’t build enough of them.” The car was recently rated at 112 MPGe by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and is estimated to be able to travel 98 miles in all electric. Both numbers surpass that of the competing Nissan LEAF.

Like the LEAF, Mitsubishi’s BEV has an optional DC fast charging port that utilizes the CHAdeMO technology originally developed in Japan. Support for CHAdeMO is divided in the PEV industry, with many automakers waiting for the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) to determine a DC standard before offering fast charging capabilities. Patterson said he wishes there was a global agreement on a standard, but the company moved forward because the CHAdeMO was the best available option when the vehicle went into production.

Mitsubishi is planning a line of PEVs, including a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) for model year 2014. Patterson said the company expects that 20% of vehicles produced by Mitsubishi would feature an electric drive in 2020.

Meanwhile, Toyota is gearing up for the release of two PEVs in 2012, the Prius Plug-in Hybrid, and the RAV4 EV. The Prius PHEV will be available for sale in the first quarter of 2012. Toyota has been testing the vehicle with 160 consumers across the United States and has had positive feedback from consumers, according to Geri Yoza, the National Business Planning Manager of Advanced Vehicle Marketing. Yoza said consumers charged the vehicle more frequently than anticipated (about 10x per week), and yet the electricity cost was lower than they thought, at about $150 for the entire six-week trial.

The Toyota RAV4 EV will make its comeback after first being sold 15 years ago. The vehicle won’t be made available to consumers, Yoza said, instead they are focusing on “very strategic applications” such as fleets and car sharing programs. Despite being a BEV that could benefit from fast charging, the RAV4 EV will not include a CHAdeMO charging port. Yoza said Toyota will not offer fast charging on any vehicles until the SAE determines a standard.

CHAdeMO chargers are being installed in several cities in the United States thanks to stimulus funding provided by the Department of Energy. Private industry companies such as retail store operators and real estate companies are considering installing charging equipment. But, they will have to weigh the pros of being able to attract Nissan and Mitsubishi BEV owners today versus the consequences of the SAE and many other automakers adopting a different standard. Retrofits of DC charging equipment to add a second port are possible, but the added expense may dissuade some potential customers.

Mitsubishi’s Patterson will be participating in a panel discussion of DC fast charging at the Plug-In 2011 conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, beginning on July 18.

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