Germany’s New Draft Legislation For Electric Car Charging: A Model for All to Follow?

Since the launch of cars like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt back in 2011, we’ve seen a dizzying array of different standards emerge around the world defining which plugs, sockets and charging stations should be used to charge an electric car’s battery pack. As well as confuse buyers of plug-in cars, the differing standards are often regionally-based.

This means automakers often use the charging standard preferred in their home country, even if the market they’re selling the car to has a different charging standard.

The CCS connector is about to become mandatory in Germany for all new DC quick charging installations, along with a set of other new rules.

The CCS connector is about to become mandatory in Germany for all new DC quick charging installations, along with a set of other new rules.

The result? Not every car on the market today can use every single rapid charging station, making finding a public charging station for your particular make and model of car a bit of a headache, especially if you’re somewhere new.

But now a new draft legislation from Germany seeks to change that forever by mandating that all new quick charging stations built in Germany offer Germany’s preferred CCS quick charging standard in addition to any other quick charging standards being offered, as well as a fall-back type2 fast charging outlet in case of hardware failure.

And while the legislation could end up disadvantaging those automakers which use other rapid charging connectors, it could become a model that other countries around the world could use as the basis for a ‘charging for all’ methodology that the plug-in world so desperately needs.

The Volkswage e-Golf is one of the many German-made electric cars to use CCS.

The Volkswage e-Golf is one of the many German-made electric cars to use CCS.

CCS — or Combined Charging System to use its official name — is a relatively new DC quick charging standard backed by all the major German automakers. Unlike the complicated CHAdeMO DC quick charge standard from Japan — which uses a completely separate, multi-pin connector from the level 2 (type1) charging socket used for on-board slower-speed AC charging — the CCS quick charge standard is designed to piggyback onto the existing Type 2 charging socket found on all electric cars made by European manufactures. This means the CCS connector is essentially a standard type 2 European charging socket with two extra connectors underneath for high-power DC charging of the battery pack.

(Since type 2 charging stations are not used in the U.S., German cars made for U.S. export feature a modified version of the CCS charge socket, with the upper portion of the socket made up from a Type 1 (J-1772) socket instead of the European Type 2 socket. CCS Rapid chargers in the U.S. are therefore pin incompatible with European CCS chargers, )

Initially Volkswagen, BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz — the firms responsible for helping shape the CCS charging standard — had wanted Germany to mandate that the CCS quick charge standard was the only DC quick charging standard that could be used in Germany, essentially banning the installation of any new CHAdeMO DC quick charging stations needed to quick charge cars like the Nissan LEAF, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mitsubishi i-Miev and Kia Soul EV.

New CHAdeMO charging will be allowed, but sites must also include CCS

New CHAdeMO charging will be allowed, but sites must also include CCS

Now, the proposed draft legislation is softer. Instead of mandating CCS as the only rapid charging standard for future charging infrastructure installations, it allows companies to install other DC or AC rapid charging standards provided a CCS charging station is also installed.

Further, it ensures that a failsafe type 2 (level 2) charging station is also installed in case of rapid charger failure and mandates that all charging providers report their charging station’s status to a central government database as well as carry out regular maintenance to ensure a high reliability of charging stations nationwide.

The legislation only covers new installations however, meaning that any existing CHAdeMO DC quick charge sites, any existing 3-phase 43 kilowatt AC quick charge sites (used only for the Renault ZOE electric car), and any existing Tesla Supercharger sites won’t have to comply.

But for any new installations, it means that CCS-compatible cars will need to be catered for, too.

From a pessimistic perspective, the new proposed legislation could be seen to be unfair to those with non-CCS vehicles, giving German-made CCS-compliant plug-in cars a competitive edge over their counterparts from elsewhere in the world. But since most public charging providers will want to cater to as many different electric vehicles as possible in order to increase revenue, we think installation of ‘triple-head’ DC/AC quick charging stations will quickly become the norm.

Only in a few cases — at dealerships for example — do we expect CCS-only installations.

From an optimistic perspective, the new legislation helps pave the way towards a future where all plug-in cars are better catered for, with better error and status reporting nationwide for German plug-in drivers.

More importantly, it ensures that when things go wrong, there’s always a basic fast-charging socket available as a fallback, meaning that even when things go wrong, people can still charge.

Sites will have to include basic backup alongside rapid charging options.

Sites will have to include basic backup alongside rapid charging options.

While we’re not bothered on which charging connector is crowned king, we think adding backup options — be they humble electrical outlets or fully-fledged type 2/level 2 charging stations — as well as mandating a minimum service interval and better interoperability will dramatically change plug-in networks worldwide.

That’s if similar approaches are adopted elsewhere, of course.

Do you agree? Would you like to see charging for all at every rapid charging site? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.

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