Honda breaks ranks against CHAdeMO, Clarity Electric has Combo Charging System

Buried in the middle of Honda’s announcement of the Honda Clarity Electric lease price ($269/month in case you’re interested) is a sign that CHAdeMO’s prominence is crumbling.  Over the last several years we’ve had an unfortunate schism in electric car DC fast charging, with some automakers pushing for CHAdeMO, Tesla Motors pushing for their proprietary Supercharger system, and other automakers pushing for the Combo Charging System.  Oh, and there’s a fourth DC fast charging system in China.  The problem is the macro-economics waste, because multiple parallel DC fast charging systems must be built, and instead of having a cohesive compatible-across-the-board fast charging system we’re saddled with incompatibilities.  For example, a practical problem is the electric car owner driving up to a DC fast charging station on their last electron and being unable to charge because of incompatible charging cords.

That we have three (four, actually) DC fast charging systems is an accident of history.  CHAdeMO was developed in Japan, by TEPCO (infamously known for the Fukushima nuclear accident), and deployed in Japan in 2008.  That was before the Nissan Leaf went on the market, if you’re keeping score at home.  The Mitsubishi i-Miev was on the market at the time, and research presented by TEPCO in 2010 showed that the mere presence of fast charging stations immediately resulted in increasing electric car utilization.

The result is that Japan has a huge number of CHAdeMO charging stations.  CHAdeMO is widely deployed around the world, with the Nissan Leaf being the primary user of those charging stations.

The non-Japanese automakers did not choose CHAdeMO (other than Kia for the Kia Soul EV).  Most sided with the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and the choice by the J1772 committee to develop the Combo Charging System.  They could have adopted CHAdeMO, but instead developed CCS, forcing a two-way bifurcation in DC fast charging.  For its part, Tesla Motors chose neither system, and instead developed their own DC fast charging system, giving us the three-way bifurcation in DC fast charging.

Until now the choice of CHAdeMO-versus-CCS-versus-Supercharger had a simple algorithm:

  • Japanese?  CHAdeMO
  • Tesla Motors?  Supercharger
  • Chinese?  The Chinese system
  • Everyone else?  If they choose DC fast charging, then CCS

That’s held true until today, when this paragraph appeared in Honda’s press release on the Clarity Electric:

The Clarity Electric is powered by a 161-horsepower (120-kilowatt) electric motor producing 221 lb.-ft. of torque and drawing power from a 25.5-kWh battery pack. The vehicle can be fully charged in just over three hours at 240 volts, and when using DC fast charging with the SAE Combined Charging System, it can achieve an 80 percent charge in just 30 minutes. The model has an EPA range rating of 89 miles on a full charge3, and an EPA fuel economy rating of 126/103/114 MPGe (city/highway/combined).

Honda is a Japanese automaker.  Going by the above algorithm, Honda should have selected CHAdeMO, yes?  Honda’s previous electric car, the Honda Fit EV, was not sold with fast charging, but Honda did build a couple cars for a smart-grid-research-facility in Davis CA that has CHAdeMO.

Instead of choosing CHAdeMO, Honda chose the Combo Charging System.  Hurm…  This might be a turning point in the tussle over DC fast charging.  Well, if the Honda Clarity Electric were going to be anything other than a compliance car selling in small quantities, that is.  That Honda plans to sell the Clarity Electric only in California and Oregon signals they’ll put as much emphasis behind it as they did the Fit EV, meaning this car likely won’t make much of an impact.  Still, it’s an interesting step to note.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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