In the United States, there are three competing standards for quick charging electric cars: the Japanese-designed CHAdeMO system favored by Nissan, Mitsubishi and Kia; Tesla’s proprietary Supercharger standard currently only used by Tesla’s own plug-in cars; and the Combined Charging System (CCS), a standard supported by a total of seven different U.S. and European automakers which was designed to be the new de facto standard for all North American and European electric cars.
CCS has a lot going for it too. It is more compact and less mechanically complicated than CHAdeMO, since it simply adds two high-powered DC connectors underneath the standard J1772 (U.S.) and Type 2 (European) AC charge connectors. It shares the same communication and signal pins used for low-power AC charging, resulting in just one charging port capable of both AC and DC rather than the two discrete charging ports called for with CHAdeMO.
Yet while the majority of automakers in Europe and North America support CCS over CHAdeMO, figures from PlugShare show that there are far fewer publicly-accessible CCS charging stations in the U.S. than there are CHAdeMO ones.
Even in electric-car friendly California, a state with one of the most well-supported public charging infrastructures in the union, the numbers of public charging CCS points trail CHAdeMO ones by around two years.
Its data shows as of the end of last month there were 324 CHAdeMO DC quick charging stations, 224 Tesla Superchargers, and just 104 CCS quick charging stations available for the public to use in the Golden State. Tesla reached 104 Supercharger locations in California last spring, while the number of CHAdeMO quick charging stations passed the same marker a year earlier than that.
In total, those quick charging stations — 652 in total — combine with more than 6,597 public Level 2 charging stations to give the highest number of public charging stations of any U.S. state, around four times the as many as Texas, which has the second highest electric car public charging provision of any U.S. state.
As for CCS? When it was first ratified as a standard, automakers who supported it — including BMW, Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford and Daimler — argued that CCS should be the only officially supported standard for public quick charging of electric cars in North America and Europe.
But thanks to the popularity of the Nissan LEAF electric car and Nissan’s proactive support in funding the installation of CHAdeMO-compatible quick charging stations in key market areas, CHAdeMO has been given something of a stay of execution by virtue of its popularity and the fact that dual standard charging stations aren’t much more expensive to build and install than single-standard units.
In Europe, where CHAdeMO exists alongside CCS, Tesla Supercharging and the three-phase AC quick charging used by the Renault ZOE hatchback, most providers have resolved to continue providing cross-standard support where possible, with most new installations consisting of triple-head CCS/CHAdeMO and three-phase Type 2 installations to cater for all cars. (It’s worth noting too that European-market Tesla Model S cars use a modified, lengthened Type 2 charging inlet rather than Tesla’s proprietary Supercharge connector, allowing customers to use either DC Superchargers or AC three-phase charging where available.)
Of late, even Volkswagen and BMW — who recently announced a massive push on CCS quick charging infrastructure across the U.S. for owners of the Volkswagen e-Golf and BMW i3 — have promised to install dual-head CCS/CHAdeMO units at high-traffic locations so electric car drivers of all makes and models can benefit from the extra infrastructure. Initially, both firms had been reluctant to support the CHAdeMO standard.
Which brings us to the inevitable question. Which standard should you choose on your next electric car?
For now — and ignoring Tesla’s proprietary Tesla Superchargers — CHAdeMO is the most popular rapid charging technology by far, with many more CHAdeMo-compatible cars on the roads than CCS-equipped models.
With more charging stations too, you’re more likely to find a CHAdeMO charging station than you will a CCS unit.
Sadly, it’s not that easy.
Along with the higher number of charging stations come higher numbers of users. To date, there are 75,000 CHAdeMO-equipped Nissan LEAFs in the U.S., along with small numbers of Mitsubishi i-Mievs and Kia Soul EVs. Combined, we’d estimate there are no more than about 11,000 BMW i3, Chevrolet Spark EV and Volkswagen e-Golf cars in the U.S.
Do the math, and you’ll see that while there are far more CHAdeMO stations in the U.S., the ratio of cars to charging stations is far more favorable for CCS than CHAdeMO, at least in key markets like California.
Our advice? If you know the routes you’re going to need to charge along regularly, make sure you check to see what charging standards are supported before you make your decision to buy.
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