EV charger rivals challenge Japan

CHAdeMO system threatened by U.S.-German Combo for global standard; China also a threat


Japan is at a critical point in its efforts to secure a leading position in the global electric vehicle market now that U.S. and German manufacturers have unveiled Combo, an EV battery-charging system.

Combo could undermine Japan’s leading attempt to make its own system, CHAdeMO, the global battery-charging standard.

China is also developing a fast-charging system, but some U.S. and German manufacturers have reportedly approached it in a quest to build a unified system. If China joins the group, it could turn the tables on Japan in the race for a global charging standard.

The International Electrotechnical Commission is expected to certify CHAdeMO, Combo and the Chinese charging systems as global standards next year, fueling concerns this could give rise to systems that conflict from country to country.

A senior Volkswagen AG official said in Tokyo that the EVs it plans to release in Japan from 2014 will use the CHAdeMO system but also acknowledged that it has been talking with the Chinese government about setting up a common charging system.

Japan has also approached China about using its CHAdeMO charger. With some 1,500 units already installed mostly in Japan, CHAdeMO’s advantage over Combo seems evident, because the system pursued by the U.S. and German automakers probably won’t be put into practical use until next year, at the earliest.

But a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry official in charge of the EV chargers said China is “unlikely to accept CHAdeMO as it is,” indicating China is seeking to differentiate its charging system.

“The battle over charging systems could hinder promotion of electric vehicles,” said CHAdeMO Association President Toshiyuki Shiga, who is also chief operating officer of Nissan Motor Co.

“It’s important for countries to work together to develop a unified standard,” he said.