The CHAdeMO fast charging protocol suffers a major hit with Nissan choosing a competing standard for its new electric SUV in the US and Europe.
The upcoming Nissan Ariya electric SUV is a major step in forward the the automaker's Nissan Next vision -- a rebirth of the brand with a streamlined new generation of vehicles -- but it could also be the death knell of the CHAdeMO DC fast-charging standard in the US and Europe. Nissan's instead adopted the competing Combined Charging System that's standard for these markets.
The CHAdeMO protocol was developed and promoted by the eponymous CHAdeMO Association, formed in 2010 by Nissan, Mitsubishi , Subaru (nee Fuji Heavy Industries) and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The standard's complex 10-pin connector and high-voltage, high-current stations enable rapid charging for compatible electric vehicles, adding up to 75 miles in around 25 minutes for early revisions. Over time, the protocol has grown to include even faster theoretical speeds, vehicle data connectivity and bi-directional flow enabling vehicle-to-grid charging.
Nissan's fully electric Leaf was one of the first EVs to make use of the CHAdeMO standard in the US when the connector appeared next to the universal J1772 charging port on the SL trim level in 2010. In 2011, it was joined by a CHAdeMO-compatible version of Mitsubishi's i-MiEV with full-electric versions of Honda's Fit and Kia's Soul also playing host to the funky plug over the years.
Today, the only new CHAdeMO-compatible vehicles available to US buyers are the second-generation Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi's Outlander PHEV. Automakers Hyundai, Kia and Honda have all moved their fast-charging plug-ins sold in North America and Europe to the CCS standard.
Despite arriving a year later, there are nearly as many CCS stations in North America (3,174) as there are CHAdeMO (3,307) according to the US Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center, but since many of these stations include multiple CCS plugs (versus just one CHAdeMO), the newer protocol technically enjoys more actual outlets (6,130 vs. 5,059). That's not a huge difference, but CCS has another advantage here: Charging at those stations is often much faster.
There's only so much room to cram batteries into a vehicle's platform, even in this spacious new class of EV crossovers . So Nissan is one of many automakers (including Audi with its 150 kW charging E-Tron) that see shorter, ultra-fast charging sessions as a good way to combat range anxiety while we wait for a breakthrough in cheap energy density. But to get charging times down, power (wattage) has to go up.
Most CHAdeMO stations in the US are limited to just 50 kilowatts. Electrify America's fastest CCS chargers can reach up to 350 kW. Now, in fairness, most CCS stations don't max out the full 350-kW potential either. Nissan and EVgo have recently committed to building 200 CHAdeMO 100-kW stations, but with the new Ariya supporting up to 130-kW fast charging, CCS appears to be the only way the electric SUV could charge at full speed at an American station today.
"We are just following the customer," said Nissan Senior VP Ivan Espinosa. "This is what we do. And if the customer is expecting this because it's more popular, and easy to access the infrastructure under CCS, we will do that. This is what we've decided to do in the case of the Ariya for the US."
As to whether a hypothetical next-generation Leaf would also convert to CCS, the automaker made no comment.
CHAdeMO has enjoyed success in parts of the world like Japan, where it has a more widespread charging network, more vehicles that support the standard (even Tesla vehicles sold in Japan charge with a CHAdeMO adapter), and deeper integration with infrastructure, including a developing vehicle-to-grid ecosystem that enables neat tricks like powering a home during an outage or equalizing grid spikes and dips with connected cars' batteries.
"We will keep using CHAdeMO in other parts of the world," states Espinosa, clarifying that Ariya SUVs sold in Japan will use and take full advantage of the charging standard that the brand has supported for a decade now.
Nissan hasn't stated whether there will be different charge times for US and European CCS-equipped Ariyas versus Japanese models with CHAdeMO. In fact, the automaker hasn't even nailed down exact range or charging times; those details will come closer to the EV's launch. You can check out our full first look at the new Nissan Ariya electric SUV for an updated rundown of everything that we do know.