The formal name for what many of us more casually call “Level 3” charging is CHAdeMo, which is the only currently installed standard to reduce electric-car charging time for an 80-percent charge to less than an hour.  

The CHAdeMo interface is an option on the 2011 Nissan Leaf; on that car, it reduces charge time for an 80-percent charge to around 30 minutes from more than 6 hours suing the more standard 240-Volt, or Level 2, charging station.  

Many of these CHAdeMo charging stations are planned for US installation, though officially this format has not been accepted as a true “national standard.”  Today, only two such stations are available to the public: one in Portland, Oregon, and another in Vacaville, California.  Japan already has more than 530 such charge points.

The Vacaville Level 3 charging point is sited at a park-andride area just off the Davis Street exit on Highway 80, about halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento.  According to the early publicity for this unit, it was installed by Pacific Gas & Electric utility company as an “experiment” to see how electric-car drivers would use it.

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

2011 Nissan Leaf at quick-charging station

Currently, the sole electric car sold in the U.S. that can use a CHAdeMo connector is the 2011 Nissan Leaf, which buyers must order with the appropriate connector for fast charging.  The 2012 Mitsubishi 'i' electric car, which will go on sale toward the end of this year, also offers this connector.

A press event group of Mitsubishi 'i' cars were the first to actually use the Vacaville charging service late last year, on a trip between San Francisco and Sacramento (a distance of 90 miles).

Electric cars with the quick-charge connector can make the commute from Sacramento or San Francisco for shopping at the Vacaville Outlet Mall. With a stop at the Davis Street Park and Ride, and perhaps a burger and fries at the adjacent Sonic Drive-In, they get back home without “range anxiety.”

Portable diesel-powered 440-Volt quick charger for Nissan Leaf electric cars

Portable diesel-powered 440-Volt quick charger for Nissan Leaf electric cars

The Level 3 charger in Portland, Oregon, is sited in the parking garage of the World Trade Center (a $3 parking fee is required), but is open for public use.  The location was chosen as this unit was installed by PG&E, which has offices in the same complex, meaning their employees can potentially get first access to the charger.

The World Trade Center is well set for commuters coming from outlying areas for downtown shopping, theatres, or business, so electric-car drivers can find undercover parking and the power for their return drive in a single place.

Over 300 of these CHAdeMo format chargers are planned for early installation throughout the U.S. The impact of the extensive rollout is expected to exert pressure for adoption of the already formal Japanese commitment to this connector and process in the U.S. as well.