SAE Finalizes New Electric Car Fast Charging “Combo Connector”

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Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-1772 "combo" electric-car charging plug

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-1772 "combo" electric-car charging plug

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After months of planning, the next-generation J1772 electric car charging standard has been approved by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

As expected, it is based on the current J1772 Level 2 charging connector found on cars like the 2012 Nissan Leaf and 2013 Chevrolet Volt, but adds direct current capability.

Unlike the Chademo rapid charging standard currently found on cars like the 2012 Mitsubishi i and Nissan Leaf, the new ‘combo connector’ combines direct current fast charging and regular level 2 charging in one unit. 

The result is a charging plug and socket combination which isn’t exactly pretty, but for the first time officially defines a rapid charging standard for U.S. electric cars. 

If you’re confused, you’re not alone. 

Rapid Charging Station Tennessee Gas Station

Rapid Charging Station Tennessee Gas Station

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Although the number of Chademo direct current rapid charging stations in the U.S. has been steadily increasing, the SAE and its members decided the concept of two individual sockets wasn’t a good idea. 

According to previous reports, Automakers in the U.S. believed that a single charging connector would allow for cleaner car design, meaning the Japanese Chademo system wasn’t suitable. 

The new standard also allows for backward compatibility with existing level 2 charging stations. 

In fact, the top half of the new combo connector is identical to existing level 2 charging sockets, allowing car fitted with it to charge at level 2, 240-volts when a rapid charging socket is not available. 

The publishing of the new SAE J1772 rapid charge standard marks the third concurrent rapid charging technology now being pushed in the U.S., alongside the Japanese-designed Chademo and Tesla-only Supercharger systems. 

Let the battle of rapid charging--and the confusion of regular electric car buyers--begin.


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Comments (28)
  1. You have to wonder who will be the first company to use this connector. Nissan has already put its weight behind Chademo. The Chevy Volt doesn't really need rapid charging.

  2. Volt may not need rapid charging, but I have to say I wouldn't mind it while shopping or going for lunch. Helpful for those who don't have fast charging at home.

  3. @John: It will be adopted by GM, Ford, and all the German carmakers for at least some of their forthcoming battery electric vehicles.

    The first vehicle to use it will be the (compliance car) 2013 Chevrolet Spark EV, and I believe there are at least four other models that have been announced to incorporate it.

  4. Thanks kindly for the added information. It is interesting that it will be installed as soon as a 2013 model vehicle.

  5. If you look carefully, you can actually see the combo connector in this Spark EV drawing.

    I don't think it looks as bad as "some people." :)

  6. and a close up here.

  7. There are more comments in this thread
  8. Too little, too late. It's a standard not likely to get used anytime soon, Nissan is firmly behin Chademo, Tesla had to define their own, since they couldn't wait for the SAE, and no other U.S. mfrs. even have committed EV programs.

  9. @Mitchell: See comment above in response to John C. Briggs comment. It won't roll out overnight, but over the next couple of years.

    And with the combined weight of U.S. and German auto industries behind it, it is likely to pose a formidable threat to the early position established by CHAdeMO.

  10. @John, please tell me if I missed something but I don't see any fast-charge-capable EV coming from a US manufacturer besides the Spark (a low-volume, compliance car).
    Now, German vs Japanese: while Nissan's plans are quite clear (in term of volume), I don't know much about BMW's or VW's. Any insight?
    To get an idea of market penetration, here are Germans vs Japanese (+Swedish, Volvo is a CHAdeMO member) cars sold in the US in 2012 so far (from 875k vs 3.8M, or almost 4 1/2x more.
    EVs: 700 leases (non-fast-charge-capable ActiveE) vs 15.5k mostly sales (15k Leafs, 500 Mitsu i).

    ...Doesn't this put the SAE plug squarely on the same shelve as Betamax from the get-go?

  11. @Just O: Au contraire.

    U.S. & German makers take the view that while Nissan may be out in front on battery-electric vehicle volume, they're happy to let Nissan take that risk--as they were with Toyota on hybrids. Opinions will vary, of course, on whether that's wise for the long term.

    But they know they have to sell some number of battery-electric cars in the future--for CARB compliance if nothing else--so they have created a fast-charging standard that's technically better (they say) and shares communications protocols with today's J-1772 Level 2 chargers (a plus).

    If that ALSO happens to cut Nissan's quick-charging plans off at the knees, well...sometimes that happens to first movers.

  12. @Just O: In other words ... this is a long-term game and it's very early days yet. They can afford to wait, and the combined output of U.S. and German makers will swamp that of Nissan and Renault.

  13. First, the only thing that the new SAE plug shares with the old one is the top part of the physical connector. The protocol is entirely different, no "plus" there.

    Compared to CHAdeMO, the new SAE uses HomePlug power-line communication instead of an automotive-grade fieldbus (CAN), and does away with some isolation requirements, which IMHO makes it inherently more problem-prone and less safe, certainly not superior technically.

    Re German manufacturers "swamping" Japanese ones in the US: again, how could they when they sell 4 to 5x less cars?
    Toyota, Honda, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Volvo are all CHAdeMO members.

    Before you buy the SAE spin on all this, check out the other side too:

  14. @Just: I will defer to colleagues with more detailed background on the engineering (perhaps including you) on the pros & cons of the SAE Combo plug.

    But, again, the sales of plug-in cars in their first 20 months on sale in the U.S. bears little resemblance to the mix in, say, 2020. That's why I say this is a long game. Nissan and GM may have early mover advantage, but there will likely be others--potentially VW, for instance--who are also selling noticeable volumes.

    And if I recall correctly, Betamax had an early lead over VHS in the videocassette format wars. We know how that ended up.

    [continued ... 1 of 2]

  15. [continued ... 2. of 2]

    But in talking to companies across the entire industry, I'm hearing some increasingly angry, frustrated Japanese companies convinced they've been ganged up on by the rest of the world.

    They feel their early success was deliberately targeted by a competing standard backed by companies who wanted to orphan those first few years' worth of plug-in car adopters.

    And I'm hearing quietly confident U.S. and German companies who believe that in the end, their standard will be the dominant one.

    Time will tell.

  16. is it just me or would it have been smarter to try and work out a 3 Phase 208V connector using AC? We have 3 phase current in much of America, and by pushing into that, we can leverage that infrastructure.

    It would seem that clever work would let you get there, and it would be a cheap install, and then make the chargers on the cars smart enough to recognize if they were getting J1772 or 3Phase.

  17. They do this so it can still be somewhat compatible with the current J1772 AC Level1/2 connectors already out there...

    I imagine, eventually, it will come with a "split" configuration where AC and DC are plugged in seperately...

  18. SAE combo connector is slated to begin to appear on 2014 model year U.S. and German plug-in vehicles next year.

  19. I very much doubt they will be in German plug-in cars. In Europe we use a Type2 plug that allows 3-phase, rather than the mono-phase J1772. I have seen a sketch of a Type2-DC combo-plug, but I don't think that will ever take off, with 3-phase 22kW AC charging coming (in the Zoe for example).

  20. Renault and France are indeed heading the Chademo way, but the Combo connector is definatly comming. Next year the VW and BMW will start with the UP! and i3 and all further models will also have this connector.

    The thing is that the German manufacturers don't consider it their job to provide the charging poles. Where as companies like Nissan are spending millions on placing charging poles with their Chademo connector.

  21. Tesla have also invested millions in the supercharger network.

    Had just US manufacturers backed the SAE plug I think it would fail. The Germans make it interesting as it gives the SAE standard a foothold in Europe.

  22. Renault in France is not heading Chademo way. They are heading "Type 2" 3-phase way - allowing 22kW charging without DC. And this "Type 2" connector is a German standard (Mennekes). It would seem strange for the German car manufacturers to use the American single phase standard ! Perhaps only on their US models ?

  23. Have any Charge Station manufactures committed to supporting the new SAE J1772 combo plug? Most charging stations currently support either AC, or DC charging methods, but not both.

    The additional cost of AC/DC conversion circuits would likely preclude use of the combo connector with home chargers. Using faster charge DC on-the-road is more pratical, but will public charge stations also support the majority of EVs with existing Type II J1772 plugs?

  24. @Brian: Yes, IIRC, at least five companies have indicated that they will build DC quick-charging stations.

    And the combo connector isn't envisioned for home usage in the short or medium term. It's simply the way that widepread quick charging will be rolled out in the U.S. and Europe over the next decade.

    And as I understand it, those will be entirely separate from the Level 2 stations now used with today's plug-in cars with J-1772 connectors.

  25. This decision does reek of corporate cut-throat competitive "politics," since the manufacturers represented on the SAE committee do not even MAKE 100% EV's yet nor provide their semi-ev's with a fast charging option. This may end up being a bit like gasoline and diesel fueled vehicles. With tens of thousands of Chademo equiped vehicles on the road, they should have found a way to make the standard adopted backwards compatible - that they didn't speaks volumes to me.

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