DVD vs LaserDisc, BetaMax vs VHS, and FireWire vs USB are all protocol battles we’ve seen come and go. Apple vs Windows vs Android is still ongoing. Electric vehicle fast charging standard, CHAdeMO vs SAE Combo, is the next protocol battle being waged in regions where electric vehicles are becoming a larger part of the market.
The other protocols were eventually decided by market forces, and despite there being advantages and disadvantages to different designs, one eventually fades from mass market appeal. I guess there are still FireWire devices out there, because I see adapters for them at Micro Center but, for the most part, USB dominates the landscape for computer peripherals. On the other hand, memory cards still manage to have dozens of protocols, requiring buyers to be astute in what they buy that uses these various memory cards, or purchase a 56-in-1 card reader.
Imagine owning an electric vehicle and wanting to make use of a fast-charger on the way to your favorite vacation destination. Will the station be directly compatible with your car, or will you need a 10-in-1 fast charging adapter set? For the most part, electric vehicle fast charging protocols are split between CHAdeMO and SAE 1772-2009, neither of which can be connected to the other without an adapter. Will market forces shift automakers to adopt one fast charging protocol over another?
For now, there doesn’t seem to be any desire, on the part of the automakers, to pare down the options. Pending legislation in the EU has the CHAdeMO Association concerned. From European Parliament draft:
Amendment 70 Proposal
Direct Current (DC) fast recharging points for electric vehicles may be alternatively equipped with connectors of Type “CHAdeMO” for a transitional period ending on 31 December 2018.
As the Combo technology is not fully ready at the moment and as there are more than 650 CHAdeMO chargers already installed in Europe, with more than 1,000 to be deployed by the end of 2013, it is important to set a time-limited transitional period where both systems can be deployed, with the final objective to find a single standard as indicated in the Commission proposal.”
The CHAdeMO Association is still working out a response, but with the EU considering limiting the field to just one electric vehicle fast-charging protocol, that means CHAdeMO could possibly find itself phased out by 2018. With SAE Combo admittedly far behind in development, it surprises me that the EU would consider wiping out CHAdeMO, which already has a firm foothold there.