Just like many other industries, the electric car world is awash with competing standards, most of which seem to govern the connectors and processes by which electric car battery packs are charged. Worse still, North America, Europe, and Asia all have differing standards.
Historically, cars from Japan have been sold in Europe and America with CHAdeMo quick charge capabilities as standard, despite CHAdeMO being a Japanese charging standard. Similarly, North American cars are often sold in Europe with J1772 connectors on them, despite the officially-mandated European charging standard being based on the Mennekes connector. But what happens when a just-launched European car — like the BMW i3, for example — is sold overseas?
The connectors are changed, of course, ostensibly to give drivers of the i3 access to more public quick charging stations.
But because the CHAdeMO quick charge connector is larger in size than the Combined Charge Standard combined AC and DC charging inlet the BMW i3 was designed around, there isn’t enough room for the standard AC charge connector to fit alongside it. The solution? Place the AC charge connector under the hood.
This strange charging compromise means Japanese owners of the i3 who want to use slower, 240-Volt public charging stations or even charge at 100 volts using a domestic power outlet will have to first raise the bonnet before plugging in.
Frankly, the solution is anything but elegant. With a moderately-sized boot, the BMW i3 has a tiny under-bonnet storage area for things like the tire repair kit and charging cables. But because the J1772 inlet is recessed towards the rear of this area, Japanese owners will have to keep the space clear if they want to regularly use slower-speed level 1 and level 2 chargers.
Of course, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen electric cars change charging connectors for different export markets. While U.S. Tesla Model S owners have cars fitted with Tesla’s own proprietary charging connector, European owners have cars fitted with a modified version of the Mennekes plug found on cars like the Renault Zoe and Smart ForTwo ED. When it launches in Japan in coming months, the Model S is also expected to ship with a CHAdeMO-style connector to allow it to use the countries extensive network of charging stations.
It’s no wonder either: in the U.S., there are just 306 CHAdeMO quick chargers, while the whole of Europe totals just under one thousand CHAdeMO stations. Japan, where the standard was invented, has a massive 1,858 public charge stations.
For those wanting to take their car from one country to the next — like military personnel or someone considering emigrating — the differing connectors on offer pose an interesting challenge for anyone considering moving continent with their car.
Would you buy a car with a charging connector hidden in a strange place? Are you frustrated by the plethora of charging standards, and what would your solution be?
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