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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