GM, BMW Complete Testing Of New CCS Quick-Charging Stations For Electric Cars

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SAE Combo connector in 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

SAE Combo connector in 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV prototype, Sausalito, CA, Nov 2012

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General Motors and BMW announced on Tuesday that they had jointly completed testing new quick-charging equipment for plug-in electric cars.

The charging stations, cables, and plugs were built to the new Combined Charging Standard (CCS) specification adopted by the Society of Automotive Engineers.

Each maker will soon roll out a battery-electric car that accepts CCS-based DC fast charging.

The 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV will reach the first dealers in California sometime this month, while the 2014 BMW i3 is expected to arrive at initial BMW dealerships in January.

'Unprecedented cooperation'

The tests, said BMW and GM, covered a variety of charging stations from several vendors. They are meant to "accelerate efforts to roll out SAE Combo DC Fast Charge infrastructure in the coming months."

GM's Britta Gross called the combined efforts to develop the CCS specifications and hardware an "unprecedented cooperation among [carmakers] and equipment suppliers."

The CCS equipment competes directly with the CHAdeMO quick-charging standard already installed and working for Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV electric cars.

It also competes with the Tesla Supercharger system, available only to owners of Tesla Model S luxury electric sport sedans.

Incompatible standards

The three systems are not interoperable, although Tesla plans to offer a CHAdeMO adapter in certain Asian markets.

While CHAdeMO charging systems have a few years' lead time in U.S. installations--largely due to efforts by Nissan to support its aggressive rollout of the Leaf and other battery-electric vehicles--both U.S. and German automakers have lined up solidly behind the CCS standard.

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-1772

Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J-1772

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That standard uses a single plug that combines both the existing "J-1772" plug for 240-Volt Level 2 charging with pins for more powerful direct-current fast charging.

CCS proponents argue that using the same basic communications protocols for both Level 2 and fast charging simplifies the design of electric cars, as does having a single charging port that can accept either a J-1772 or a CCS cable.

CCS to dominate in U.S.?

Most analysts expect that the CCS standard will come to dominate fast charging in North America and Europe.

Japan, however, is expected to stick with the extensive CHAdeMO infrastructure already up and running.

Universal electric car charging system

Universal electric car charging system

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Carmakers that have signed up to adopt the CCS fast-charging equipment include Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen.

The video below, produced by GM, argues the case for the CCS standard.

It should be noted that, at the moment, there are almost no commercially operating CCS quick-charging stations in the U.S.

That situation will change as the cars enter the market and the combined group of carmakers starts to push for installations.

For reference, there were almost no CHAdeMO stations operating in December 2010, when the first Nissan Leafs were sold, either.

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