Fast-charging technologies are essential to the growth of electric vehicle (EV) use. Fortunately, the number of worldwide fast-charge stations is projected to expand. According to a report from IHS Automotive, the industry will grow by a factor of more than 100 times from 2012 to 2020.

By using a fast-charge system with a high-voltage direct current (DC) charge instead of a slower alternating current (AC) charge, a vehicle can be fully charged in as little as 20 minutes. This looks like a major step toward EVs becoming more competitive with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles.

Total fast-charging stations for EVs are predicted to reach 199,000 locations globally in 2020, up from 1,800 in 2012. Meanwhile, the number of stations is anticipated to rise more than threefold in 2013 to 5,900, then nearly triple to 15,200 in 2014. 

“The length of time it takes to recharge an EV continues to be one of the major stumbling blocks inhibiting the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,” said Alastair Hayfield, associate research director at IHS Automotive. “If EV auto manufacturers could overcome this obstacle, it could lead to a high rate of adoption from environmentally minded consumers as well as those seeking to cut gasoline expenses. That’s where fast charging comes in.”

One fast-charging standard designed for EVs is dubbed CHAdeMO, a primarily Japanese-backed technology. Proponents of this technology include Fuji Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Tokyo Electric Power and Toyota.

CHAdeMO, roughly translated as “charge for moving,” began deployment in 2009 to accelerate the adoption of EVs in Japan where the cars have found positive reception. Today, there are as many as 2,445 CHAdeMO fast chargers in operation and more than 57,000 CHAdeMO-compatible EVs around the world. This accounts for as much as 80 percent of all EVs on the road, especially given the high concentration of EVs coming from Japan in the form of the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEv, Hondo Fit EV and others.

A competing fast-charge solution is the combined charging system (CCS). It offers EV owners the option of having a single charging inlet that can be used for all available charging methods, including one-phase charging at an AC power source, high-speed AC charging with a three-phase current connector at home or at public charging stations, DC charging at a conventional household installation, and DC fast charging.

CCS, which was submitted for international standardization in 2011 has gained the support of Audi, BMW, Chrysler, Daimler AG, Ford, GM, Porsche and Volkswagen. BMW, GM and Volkswagen have announced they will introduce fast-charging EVs based on the CCS standard.

Tesla Motors is driving a third method for fast charging by developing its own proprietary network of fast chargers in the United States called Superchargers, which operate at a higher power rating than current CHAdeMO or CCS chargers and have a proprietary plug interface that only Tesla vehicles can use.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that DC charging is becoming the favored means for supporting rapid, range-extension EVs. But it is less clear as to whether CHAdeMO, CCS, or Tesla’s technology will win the battle for the consumer.

Japan will continue to use CHAdeMO, while Germany is set on using CCS. Other countries are likely to choose CCS, since it supports slow charging. But no matter which solution is used, DC-based fast charging is critical to promoting consumer approval and use of EVs.

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