"EV quick charging post" sign

ShutterstockWhat flavor is this charging station?

It’s like a rerun of the 1980s clash between VHS and Betamax.

The nascent electric-vehicle market is being served by two incompatible styles of rapid chargers. There’s the Japanese-developed CHAdeMO standard, favored by Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota. And then there’s the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) International J1772 Combo standard, which is backed by GM, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW.

While the two sides duke it out, cities have to gamble as they choose which kind of system to install at public charging stations. From ClimateWire:

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Tension between the two camps is palpable. At a California hearing last year Shad Balch, GM’s manager of environment and energy policy, called for the boycott of CHAdeMO chargers. CHAdeMO supporters, in turn, have called the SAE Combo charger “the plug without cars.” Meanwhile, experts warn the feud could kill the momentum of the electric vehicle market.

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“Fast charging, however and whenever it gets built out, is going to be key for the development of a mainstream market for plug-in electric vehicles,” said Richard Martin, editorial director at Navigant Research. “The broader conflict between the CHAdeMO and SAE Combo connectors, we see that as a hindrance to the market over the next several years that needs to be worked out.” …

“It’s a little bit like a standards war, not unlike VHS versus Betamax,” [Department of Energy program manager Patrick Davis said]. “There’s likely to be a winner, and it’s likely to take a few years to figure out who wins, or which standard wins, but at this point we don’t see how it’s avoidable.”

If that weren’t bad enough, Tesla has its own proprietary charging technology, which is incompatible with the other two.