Why CHAdeMO Electric Car Charging Is on Death Row in Europe

By · August 14, 2013

One Nissan Leaf charging with Chademo

Nissan LEAF charging with Chademo

The news last week that the European Parliament wants to stop the installation of CHAdeMO Quick Charge stations by 2019 in Europe was a shock to many people. But it shouldn't be. The European Parliament is right to consider proposals to kill CHAdeMO, and whatever they decide, there's no doubt there are hard times ahead for the CHAdeMO standard in Europe.

Let's consider the facts. The best-selling electric car in France during the first half of the year was the Renault Zoe. It can't use CHAdeMO. The best-selling electric car in Germany during the first half of the year was the Smart Electric Drive. It can't use CHAdeMO either.

Looking at the whole of Europe, the two best-selling EVs last year were the Renault Twizy and Kangoo, and neither use CHAdeMO. What about Norway? Who cares about Norway? It's true that the Nissan LEAF, which relies on CHAdeMO chargers, was the best-selling EV in Norway last year, and Norway is geographically in Europe and is a member of European Economic Area. But Norway is not a member of the European Union, so it doesn't count here. Norwegians do not have a seat at this particular table.

Now, The Future

Before the end of this year, these new electric cars will be launched in Europe: Tesla Model S, Ford Focus Electric, Volkswagen E-Up! and the BMW i3. Not a single one works with CHAdeMO chargers. Only a minority of EVs work with CHAdeMO today, and that minority will only get smaller in the coming years. The only new model expected to use CHAdeMO will be a van, the Nissan E-NV200. The market rules, and this is not the vehicle that will turn the EV market around.

Some people say the CHAdeMO standard reflects a battle between the Japanese auto industry and the rest of the automotive world, but that's not true. Neither the Toyota RAV4 EV nor the Honda Fit EV work with CHAdeMO, and that leaves only two manufacturers to back the CHAdeMO standard: Nissan and Mitsubishi. The latter is not doing much to express its support. To anyone planing to install a charging station, it's risky to bet on a standard that gets so little backing from the broad automotive industry.

One Mitsubishi i charging with Chademo

Mitsubishi i charging with CHAdeMO

What about CHAdeMO's technology? Is it worth fighting for?

The plug is poorly designed since it doesn't allow slow charging. Cars use another plug for that. So the best thing about CHAdeMO is probably its proven safety record. This standard has several years of use behind it, and all the bugs were carefully ironed out before Japanese manufacturers started exporting it. The CHAdeMO plug is also unique in having a locking mechanism that prevents mishandling by drivers.

On the negative side, the CHAdeMO is quite bulky, and not very practical to use with that latch. The new competing SAE CCS combo plug, or the Tesla connector, are both sleeker, lighter and faster to use. They also allow higher currents. CHAdeMO was originally designed for 100-kW service, but delivers 50-kW at stations. European CCS plug is designed to handle up to 170-kW, and delivers 50-kW today but should be quickly upgraded to 85 to 90-kW, while the Tesla plug puts out 120-kW.

The backers of the CCS connector claim that it's safer than CHAdeMO—although nobody has user data to prove this. CCS is backed by all American and German car manufacturers. So if you're a gambler, the safe bet is CCS.

Here's the bigger point: the world needs to get used to the idea that, with EVs, the automobile made a bold step into the ever-changing world of consumer electronics. Vinyl records are gone. VHS tapes are finito. Does anyone remember when computers had serial and parallel ports? Nobody should expect an EV plug in use today to be here forever. By 2019, the CHAdeMO plug will have had 10 years of existence. It would be lucky to last that long.

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