Why Australia Needs An Electric Car Charging Standard

More electric vehicles (EVs) are hitting Australia's roads, and more public charging stations are being installed to support them. What is missing, however, is an Australian standard or even a recommendation for charging connectors -- the plug that joins the car to the charging station.

Picture: brx0

When we started Australia's first electric vehicle trial in Western Australia in 2010, there were no manufacturer-built cars available and we had to use locally built conversions. As of today, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Holden and Tesla offer electric cars in the Australian market. Nearly all international car manufacturers will follow in 2014 and 2015.

Charging networks have been established as well. In Perth we have a public charging network of around 30 stations (7kW AC). There is a similar sized network in Melbourne, but less in other capital cities.

Types of stations

The two most prominent charging station types for AC charging are IEC 62196 Type 1 (aka SAE J1772, used in the US and Japan) and IEC 62196 Type 2 (aka Mennekes, used in Europe). The internal architecture of these station types is largely identical, but Type 1 stations are restricted to single-phase power, while Type 2 stations can provide single-phase or three-phase power, which means at least three times faster charging.

Therefore, Australia's choice should obviously be Type 2, even more so since three-phase connections improve the grid balance.

The reason behind the two competing world standards is the difference in electric power transmission grid. Australia, like Europe, has a three-phase power grid, while the US and Japan only have a split-phase single phase grid.

Stuart Speidel with a "Type 1" connector and Prof. Thomas Braunl with a "Type 2" connector at the UWA EV charging station.

Isn't variety good?

Imagine the confusion if there was no standard for petrol car fuel nozzles! The equivalent is now happening for electric cars: Because Australia has not yet adopted an EV charging connector standard, a mix of stations is currently being installed.

Although we are still dealing with a very low number of charging stations overall, they do set a precedent. Whatever happens now will determine Australia's EV charging future.

The availability of stations will influence car manufacturers when deciding which EV type to export to Australia.

Getting two different types of cars is not helpful for the early adopters of electric vehicles, nor for the operators of charging networks. Remember Beta versus VHS video? Eventually one standard will prevail and non-compliant stations and cars will have to be converted at a significant cost.

Or worse, both standards will remain side-by-side, similar to the situation we have with screw-type and bayonet-type light bulbs in Australia.

If we wait, will things get simpler?

Maybe the already available next generation of fast-DC chargers will solve this dilemma? Unfortunately not. Australia's first fast-DC charging stations follow the Japanese ChaDeMo standard, which most likely will be obsolete in a couple of years.

That's because the world's eight leading automotive manufacturers from the US and Europe have instead agreed to support the new Combo DC-charging standard. Although a common US/European standard sounds great, there are again two different connectors in order to be compatible with slow AC charging: "Combo Type 1" for the US and "Combo Type 2" for Europe.

Maybe inductive charging will finally eliminate the choice by eliminating connectors altogether? We'll see at the end of the decade.

Thomas Bräunl is Professor of Robotics and Director of the WA Electric Vehicle Trial at University of Western Australia. He received funding from an ARC Linkage project.

The ConversationThis article was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.


    Makes even more sense to go with European standard when you consider that (presumably) the UK will use the EU standard and they're one of the few countries that drive on our side of the road.. therefore greater economy of scale for a manufacturer and cheaper cars for us.

      Ummm, Japan? Closer, make a lot more cars, back the other standard.

        Japan make cars for all markets.. they'll be putting both sockets in depending on the target market of the vehicle..
        Australia should opt for the socket/plug that aligns closest to a large Right Hand Drive market to benefit from their economy of scale. The Japanese production line can run 25,000 RHD vehicles with 1 socket type rather than 20,000 with the EU socket for the UK and 5,000 with the US socket for us.

    I have yet to see an electric car, I don't think I have ever seen one in person to be honest and I drive 3 hours a day, every day.

      So we don't need a standard because you don't see electric cars on your daily drive. Riiiiiiiiiiight.

        No, I never said I disagree with that I was just saying that this sentence "More electric vehicles (EVs) are hitting Australia’s roads, and more public charging stations are being installed to support them"
        surprised me.

        you are implying too much sunny jim

          Who cares then whether you do or don't see electric cars. Sales figures are a fact - please don't be surprised about facts.

          Amazingly, there is more to the world than just what you see.

            Jeez some people really do take things to the extreme, huh.

            - I never said what I was saying is a a FACT it's just an observation of mine, did I say that the article is wrong, no. so why are you implying that I'm being negative I'm all for electric cars, my comment is simply again AN OBSERVATION, kid.

            you don't seen to be able to comprehend what i am saying and are taking things way out of context, I'm hoping you are just a school kid if not god help you son.

      Do you know what they look like?

        Yeah, I'm a pretty bit car enthusiast I know what's what even from the illumination of tail lights in the distance during the night. I also hang around a lot of car social circles ect... no one there seems to mention them let alone discuss them.

        I'm just saying I myself have yet to see one and I'm someone who is on the road quite a bit.

    Do we really need a standard?

    There's a different nozzle for LPG, diesel, and unleaded.

      that's to attempt to stop fools putting the wrong thing in their engine.

    The standard should be Tesla, because it is the most powerful, to give you the fastest charge which makes your electric car have a much greater effective range. Put another way: on your half hour pitstop, eould you rather get 200 miles worth of charge or 10 miles worth of charge?

    There won't be a push for electric cars until Australia derives its energy from something other than fossil fuels. Otherwise we are just wasting more energy in the transfer of potential energy: fossil -> electricity -> battery -> electricity -> kinetic vs the current situation of fossil -> kinetic

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