One Network to Rule Them All: Japan Launches Nippon Charge Service for Electric Cars

As our ill-fated trip across Europe last week proved, driving electric cars long distance is only possible if there’s a reliable charging network in place to provide those much-needed electrons to refuel your car’s limited-range battery pack. In fact, with the exception of Tesla’s worldwide supercharger network — which is owned and operated by Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] directly — charging any other electric car on the move requires owners to carry an assortment of RFID smart access cards and an expectation that charging won’t be as simple as it should be.

The new charging service in Japan aims to make charging your electric car anywhere much easier.

The new charging service in Japan aims to make charging your electric car anywhere much easier.

In the past, we’ve seen several efforts from various quarters to simplify electric car charging networks with roaming agreements and pay-as-you-go operation, but now Japan’s largest automakers are clubbing together to support electric vehicles in an unprecedented way.

The rival firms are working together to develop a single nationwide charging provider for the island nation.

Established last week, Nippon Charge Service LLC is a joint project between Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi, as well as the Development Bank of Japan. Funded to the tune of $800,000 U.S. in total with funds coming from the companies themselves, Nippon Charge Service LLC aims to make it easier for plug-in drivers to find a place to charge.

Announced last year as apart of a government plan to raise Japan’s number of publicly accessible charging stations to more than 17,000 units, Nippon Charge Service will not only oversee and maintain Japan’s public charging stations, but it will ensure that new electric car owners are given a universal smart access card to enable them to refuel at whichever charging station they come across.

This kind of joint collaboration is practically unheard of to date, with most electric car owners — including us here at Transport Evolved — possessing more charge point access cards than we know what to do with. Worse still, despite having more cards than we think is healthy, there’s always one charge point which doesn’t work with any of your charging cards: no matter how many you have.

Hopefully, the new network will also mean sights like this are a thing of the past.

Hopefully, the new network will also mean sights like this are a thing of the past.

According to official press releases announcing the new joint venture, the Nippon Charge Service will be up and running by the end of 2014, and will hopefully make it possible for any electric car driver in Japan to make trips from north to south, east to west without worrying about unreliable or unavailable charging infrastructure.

It’s worth noting here however that Nippon Charge Service won’t own charging stations. Instead, it will operate independently of charging station installers and charging station owners, operating as an intermediary between independent buisness with charging stations and EV owners.

In this way, electric car drivers will pay just one bill every month for their electric car charging — while those providing the facility will be compensated by Nippon Charge Service for all charging carried out in a given period.

Ultimately, the new company wants to make charging your electric car as easy as filling up with gasoline. We hope it succeeds.

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  • just someone old

    In theory it looks nice.nWith your experience in mind, and what I see operators do around me, I am sceptical.nI hope it will become as simple as a creditcard!nElse users & some operators will choose not to participate!nIf an operator put chargingstations up, to get a profit, I do not think he likes that he is forced to participate in a scheme that shaves of some of the profit.nNot all have the well-being of users in mind!

  • D. Harrower

    Are private firms able to sell electricity in Japan, so they can bill by the kWh? Or is it like in the UK and NA where they have to bill by the hour or something to get around this restriction?

    • Matt Beard

      You can sell electricity by the kWh in the UK for EV charging.

      • D. Harrower

        I thought you could only do so if the network provider also happened to be a utility company (such as Ecotricity). And non-utility commercial charge networks, such as Polar, could only charge by the hour. Is this not the case?

        • Matt Beard

          “This letter sets out our decision that the Maximum Resale Price (MRP) provisions do not apply to the resale of electricity from charge points for use by electric vehicles (EVs).”nnhttps://www.ofgem.gov.uk/publications-and-updates/decision-application-maximum-resale-price-resale-electricity-charging-electric-vehicles

          • D. Harrower

            Okay. Good on the UK. This limitation is a big PitA over here.

  • Andrew Campbell

    As long as Tesla can’t use them ……

  • Matt Beard

    Just put a &%^$& credit card (NFC ideally) reader in and make membership optional (you can link your card to an account to track usage and/or get discounts)