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Car and Driver: Volvo Calls on Industry to Adopt Single EV Charging Standard

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Volvo Twin-Engine S90 charging

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Consider, for a moment, today’s still-nascent-after-all-these-years electric-vehicle charging infrastructure. There are CHAdeMO chargers (DC fast-current), the SAE’s J1772 (AC current), and then there’s Tesla’s homegrown charging standard, which only works with Tesla products. That’s three different standards, each of which works on some vehicles but not others. This poses a risk to the expansion of electric cars’ appeal—or so says Volvo, which is calling attention to a new standardized charging infrastructure with a “Combined Charging System (CCS).” CCS is derived from J1772 but with CHAdeMO-like DC fast charging capability. The kicker? It uses a single plug design to deliver either AC or DC current at varying power levels to a vehicle’s battery.
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Volvo touts the Combined Charging System as a way to slather some homogeneity over the growing EV charging network globally. This makes sense for Volvo and any electrified vehicle maker, except possibly Tesla (which regards its own proprietary charging network as a competitive advantage). Volvo is rapidly expanding its portfolio of plug-in hybrids and, soon, adding a full-blown electric car. A universal charging network that accounts for both regular and ultra-quick charging using the same “Combo2″ plug design, not separate connectors as are necessary today, would certainly help ease customers’ concerns about driving ranges and charging opportunities.

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Volvo isn’t alone on this—it is signing on to support the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN e.v., apparently because goofy acronym names are required in this field). That’s a consortium that Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche, Volkswagen, and others have pledged to, working with the support of the SAE to expand the Combined Charging System’s footprint. What is newsworthy is Volvo’s call to action, its Senior Vice President of research and development declaring that Volvo “believes the global automotive industry should strive towards the introduction of a standardized charging infrastructure for electric cars.”

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We agree that some commonality among public EV chargers would be welcome, as it would aid both car owners and the automakers designing the cars in the first place. Even so, moving to a universal charging standard wouldn’t be without its troubles. CharIN e.v.’s Combined Charging System plug, the Combo2, wouldn’t work with current EVs’ charging sockets—at least not without some kind of adapter—potentially leaving today’s owners in the lurch. Still, CCS is a noble pursuit; now the onus is on the Charging Interface Initiative and automakers to make it happen.

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