BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf electric cars using Combined Charging System (CCS) DC fast chargingEnlarge Photo
Last week at the DC Auto Show, BMW, Volkswagen, and ChargePoint jointly announced they would install about 100 DC fast chargers for electric cars.
Their goal is to create “Express Charging Corridors,” on both the East and West coasts, by the end of this year.
The most intriguing news, however, was that the hardware will--in most cases--offer fast charging for electric cars using two different standards: CCS (used by BMW and VW) and CHAdeMO, used by Japanese and Korean carmakers.
I say “most cases” because not every single location will have a dual-standard fast charger that provides CHAdeMO, although most will.
Today, CHAdeMO stations are far more widely installed in certain areas--totaling several hundred in the U.S.--than CCS stations, of which only a few dozen exist today.
The "Express Charging Corridor" project will determine whether a desired location is close to an existing CHAdeMO station. If so, that location will provide only CCS cables.
BMW i3 electric car and ChargePoint DC fast-charging station at Washington, DC, Auto Show, Jan 2015Enlarge Photo
I suspect this may only happen in a few locations, largely on the West Coast, since the East Coast has very few operational CHAdeMO stations to date.
The East Coast corridor will connect Boston to Washington, D.C., while the West Coast corridor will extend from Portland to San Diego.
Both corridors will have DC fast chargers installed at intervals of less than 50 miles, making it possible--if tedious--to do long-distance trips in electric cars with ranges of 75 to 90 miles, including the BMW i3 and the Volkswagen e-Golf.
Then, less than a week after the DC Auto Show, Kansas City Power & Light announced that it had partnered with Nissan and ChargePoint to install 1,000 electric-vehicle charging stations throughout the greater Kansas City region.
2014 BMW i3 REx owner Tom Moloughney demonstrates DC fast-charing using CCS protocol, Jan 2015Enlarge Photo
That in itself is fantastic news.
But if you drill down into the press release, you will find that only 15 of the stations will be DC fast charge stations--a little disappointing.
However, these 15 stations “will charge any model of electric vehicle on the market,” meaning they too will support both CHAdeMO and CCS.
So BMW and Volkswagen’s project will provide CHAdeMO charging, and Nissan’s endeavor will include CCS support.
What just happened here?
Did the carmakers all quietly agree to support both standards, so every electric-car driver can benefit?
I interviewed BMW’s Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Manager, Robert Healey, on the morning of the DC Auto Show.
He told me BMW has no problem with supporting dual-standard stations, because the main goal is to advance the proliferation of charging infrastructure for plug-in cars as rapidly as possible.
2015 Nissan LeafEnlarge Photo
He went on to say that in these early stages of adoption, “a rising tide raises all boats”--and this kind of cooperation among competitors is in everyone’s best interest.
While he couldn’t elaborate or speculate on the future, Healey said he would be open to similar partnerships with other carmakers, should the opportunity arise.
So it's looking more and more as though the DC fast-charge standards war that everyone was predicting may be over, really before the first shot was even fired.
I hope so, because if this trend continues, everybody indeed wins.
Especially electric-car drivers--not only today's, but the many more to come.