CHAdeMO Is Going the Way of Betamax and It Could Be Bad News for Older EVs
Electrify America's pivot away from CHAdeMO support could be devastating for older vehicles.
Betamax. Mini-Disc. HD DVD. Microsoft Zune. The Sega Saturn. And now, CHAdeMO. What do they all have in common?
Technologies that lost out to direct competitors, that’s what. CHAdeMO, the defacto choice for early EV fast charging, is being “phased out” by Electrify America. From here on out, they’re focusing on CCS fast charging in 2022 for future EV charging.
In case you were wondering, or had forgotten, “‘CHAdeMO’ is an abbreviation of ‘CHArge de MOve,’ equivalent to ‘charge for moving,’ and is a pun for ‘O cha demo ikaga desuka.’ in Japanese, meaning ‘Let’s have a cup of tea while charging,’ per the CHAdeMO Association’s website.
A few months ago, when Car Bibles relaunched, I asked the question: what the hell is up with CHAdeMO? For a quick explainer for our non-EV fluent friends, EV charging comes in three flavors: Level 1, or a 120V household outlet. Accessible, but slow as hell — even the limited range early Nissan Leaf would take more than twelve hours to replenish its 84-mile EPA stated range. Then there’s level 2; a 240V outlet, similar to what you’d use for a dryer. This is markedly faster; most EVs take as little as four hours to fully replenish a flat battery to full. That’s faster than level 1, but still incomparable to the five minutes or so it takes to fill up a fuel tank with fuel.
Well, that’s where the third level comes in: DC fast charging. DC fast charging can get up to 80 percent of a battery’s capacity in as little as 30 minutes, depending on the vehicle. It’s not as quick as a gas car’s refueling, but it’s pretty damn close. There’s one thing caveat — the shape of the fast-charging plug. There are three main plug shapes; CCS, Tesla’s proprietary plug (which does not exist in Europe; the automaker switched to CCS plugs a few years ago there), and CHAdeMO.
The first few mainstream EVs, the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-Miev, had fast charging options using the CHAdeMO plug. They were the first few entries in the market, and the Leaf in particular was very successful. That should set a precedent, no? The Leaf did quite well, so every other future EV should follow in its footsteps, right?
Yeah, no. A handful of other cars used CHAdeMO, but by in large, it remained ignored. Now that most automakers have fully jumped onto the EV train, the CCS plug has become the only choice, and CHAdeMO was left by the wayside.
First, Nissan announced that its forthcoming Ariya EV crossover will also use CCS, even though the Leaf has used CHAdeMO since its inception more than a decade ago. And the death knell comes from Electrify America, which announced that it will begin to phase out CHAdeMO fast chargers.
Welp. Looks like CHAdeMO is officially headed to the same fate of Betamax, useless and unsupported.
Naturally, the CHAdeMO Association isn’t too pleased with this development.
“It is actually no surprise that EA intends to limit the number of CHAdeMO charge points deployment across its charging network given the fact that EA is set up by Volkswagen, who is the key driver of the US CCS infrastructure,” said Mika Zauria via email, a Secretariat of the CHAdeMO association of Europe.
What will happen to the value of Nissan Leafs? Right now, the focus on EVs has been for new car buyers, with used buyers overlooked and unconsidered. Of the same token, there’s been an idea gaining steam that a cheap used EV could be good primary transportation for someone on a budget. Zaurin said, “However, we should reassure our users by reaffirming that Nissan is not stepping away from CHAdeMO (ref. to Nissan Europe’s statement at the CHAdeMO Member Meeting 2020) as argued by EA as one of the reasons to exclude CHAdeMO. I have actually contacted the Nissan representative last week and got confirmation that Nissan will continue working with CHAdeMO.”
Nissan’s US office sort of seconded the CHAdeMO association’s claim, albeit in a more general manner. “Nissan has supported LEAF owners with a rapidly growing public charging network infrastructure in the 10 years since its launch. In that time, Nissan has worked with local and national charging partners to install thousands of CHAdeMO charging stations across the country. With nearly 160,000 LEAF customers in the U.S. and growing, Nissan will continue its support for CHAdeMO charging infrastructure,” said Jeff Wandell, Nissan’s US EV communications lead. What Nissan’s “support” will look like, remains unclear.
Update 08/20/21: An Electrify America spokesperson issued us this statement after seeing this post:
“Electrify America will continue to deploy both CCS and CHAdeMO charger connectors at its California charging stations. By the end of 2021, the company will have about 800 charging stations across the U.S. that offer both CCS and CHAdeMO charger connectors.
Starting in 2022, the company will only deploy CCS charger connectors in non-California states. This decision was based on forecasted demand and the fact that CCS is now the non-proprietary standard of choice for 31 automakers in the U.S.”
There is no backward compatibility between CCS and CHAdeMO, so there very well may be a whole class of vehicles that will have a lack of functionality in the not-so-distant future. I can’t imagine someone paying for a used car where they can’t use all the features, but people buy used Teslas where Autopilot has been revoked, so maybe I’m wrong. Chargepoint and Electrify America have been largely quiet about supporting legacy chargers. The CHAdeMO Association isn’t going down without a fight, though. “Our major concern is the well-being of current and future CHAdeMO owners. As far as people need CHAdeMO, we will continue to perform our best efforts to respond to their needs in a most sustainable, cost-effective and convenient way as possible. We will also continue to voice our concerns to any unfair regulations or exclusive movements if it is needed to protect the CHAdeMO asset and users (both EVs and chargers).” wrote Zaurin.
I do worry that CHAdeMO’s fate could possibly happen to CCS. Tech could become outmoded and unsupported, forcing good cars off the road prematurely. In our quest to make motoring easier on the environment, I fail to see how this is a good thing.