A standardization war over the best way to quick-charge electric cars is developing. The Japanese government and car industry should try to persuade carmakers of other countries to adopt a unified standard. For the time being, to avoid a disadvantage for Japan, they should strive to get such an international standard adopted from a charging system developed in Japan. They must emphasize that some 1,500 electric vehicles already using the system have proven the system’s serviceability.

Carmakers, including ones from Germany and the United States, have proposed the adoption of their system. Non-compatible standards will cause inconvenience for users and hamper the spread of electric cars.

Since electric vehicles do not emit carbon dioxide, they are eco-friendly and expected to become increasingly important in the future car market. But they have a weakness: They have to be charged time and again when driven over a long distance. If they are charged at home using cheap electricity at night, it takes seven to eight hours to fully recharge their batteries.

To overcome this shortcoming, Japanese carmakers and the power industry have developed a quick-charge system called CHAdeMO, coined from charge and move. The name sounds like “How about tea?” in Japanese. CHAdeMO can charge about 80 percent of a battery’s capacity in 30 minutes.

In March 2010, companies concerned formed an association to spread the use of CHAdeMO. Although Japan has called on the U.S. and Europe to adopt CHAdeMO, eight carmakers including Daimler, Volkswagen and General Motors in May 2012 disclosed their own system — “combined charging system.” Practical application of the system is expected in 2013 or later. Experts say that cooperation between Japan and the eight carmakers would enable much of the two systems to be standardized.

A Volkswagen executive said that the electric vehicle it will market in Japan from 2014 will adopt CHAdeMo. But he said that the group of the eight carmakers is talking with the Chinese government about standardizing the combined charging system with a Chinese system. It is important for Japan to make every effort to establish CHAdeMo as the de facto global standard. It must remember that technological superiority does not necessarily guarantee such a position.

As a short-term goal, Japan must strengthen its negotiating influence with the International Electrotechnical Commission. Both the public and private sectors must concentrate on making CHAdeMo the global standard in IEC negotiations, as the IEC may adopt more than one standard if there are no technical problems.

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