European Conflict Continues Over Incompatible Electric-Car Charging Standards

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2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

2011 Chevrolet Volt plugged into Coulomb Technologies 240V wall charging unit

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Europe may have its own single currency and be subject to many of the same laws, but for electric car owners the business of charging isn't as simple.

European Union countries still have no standardized charging format, and auto industry specialists consider it the main hurdle to EV adoption in Europe.

But while some countries have adopted some form of standard for charging, other big players use their own format--and it's making things difficult for electric vehicle stakeholders.

Wards Auto points out that only France has adopted a Type-3 charger format, which is compatible with all national European codes for use in buildings and connection to the electric grid.

Yet Germany still uses a Type-2 format, backed by several European automotive trade organizations.

Worse still, despite this format being backed by such groups, the German connector lacks a "shutter" cover designed to prevent electrocution when the device is not in use--making it unsuitable for England, Spain, Italy, Sweden and Finland, where such a cover is required.

With many of Europe's larger countries seemingly divided on a common standard, buyers may be put off by the lack of commonality.

While EV sales in the U.K. are slow, the country still offers the greatest number of charging stations in Europe, at 1,800. France is next with 1,270, followed by Germany and Spain with 880 each. Electric car adoption has also been slow in Germany, but Germany's auto industry association, VDA, says that charging standardization is as important as having a network itself.

In some other countries, such as Poland, EV adoption is so low that standardizing charging equipment isn't even being looked into.

It seems that Europe is still not learning from similar problems faced in the U.S. back in the 1990s, when many electric cars on sale needed different chargers. That confusion led to the now standard adoption of the J-1772 plug.

In the end, it could be the carmakers themselves who set the standard.

Seven carmakers adopted a single standard last year, aimed at harmonizing European charging.

But as long as consumer groups and governments refuse to work towards a similar commitment, electric car ownership in Europe could be much more difficult than it needs to be.

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