Seven companies, one charging standard for electric cars

Anyone who’s ever unthinkingly plugged a US appliance into a European electrical outlet will appreciate the need for this: a single international standard for fast-charging electric cars.

If the sight of smoke pouring from your curling iron sent you into a panic, imagine the same scene involving your brand-new Chevy Volt or Ford Focus Electric. That’s why seven US and European automakers have agreed that a single standard for charging should apply for all their electric cars.

Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche and Volkswagen have all come together to back a system that integrates all charging scenarios into one vehicle inlet/charging connector and uses identical ways for the vehicle to communicate with the charging station. Such a system would allow electric vehicles from any of the companies to share the same fast charging stations.

Besides being good for customers, the auto industry and makers of car-chargers, a standard will make the job easier for manufacturers and speed up the installation of common systems in different parts of the world, according to the car companies.

The seven firms came to their decision after studying reviews and analyses of existing charging strategies, device ergonomics and the preferences of customers in both the US and Europe. They say the harmonized approach will provide a framework for future infrastructure planning, as well as a communication protocol to help integrate electric vehicles into smart grids.

All seven car companies have also agreed to use the Green PHY communication protocol from the HomePlug Powerline Alliance, an industry group that promotes interoperable and standards-based powerline networks and technologies. The Green PHY specification is designed for smart-grid and smart-energy applications.

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