Just days after we published an article suggesting that the greatest hurdle electric vehicles may need to overcome on their way to the mass market is politicians, hey presto, the European Union comes forward with a very controversial draft bill. At a time when the electric vehicle market was moving so smoothly towards the mass market, we now have potential major repercussions about electric vehicle charging technology across Europe.
If the rumours are correct, European Union lawmakers are looking to draft a bill which would effectively outlaw CHAdeMO charging stations from Europe by 2018. So, why has the European Union taken this step and what are the repercussions?
EV charging technology
At this moment in time there are two main standards in the electric vehicle charging sector which are CHAdeMO and the CSS charger - which is supported by GM, Ford and other electric vehicle manufacturers. At this moment in time there are 2500 CHAdeMO electric vehicle charging points, of which 650 are available in Europe, with a further 1000 expected to come on line by the end of 2013. When you compare this with the fact there are no CSS charging stations currently installed within Europe, why on earth has the European Union taken this stance?
Quote from ElectricForum.com : "It looks as though Audi is looking to crack the EV market - has anybody heard any news on when we can expect to see new Audi EVs on the market?"
If you also thrown into the mix the fact that the most popular electric vehicle currently on the market, in the shape of the Nissan Leaf, itself uses CHAdeMO charging technology, this just makes the situation even more difficult to understand.
Politicians and technology
Everyone that you talk to in the electric vehicle industry appreciates that there is a need to adopt just one mainstream electric vehicle charging technology going forward. This makes perfect sense, we have seen similar situations with regards to video technology in the past but quite why the European Union is so supportive of the CSS system which does not yet exist in Europe remains to be seen.
Prior to today's rumour, which prompted a damning response from the CHAdeMO Association, many governments had decided to take a back seat and let the electric vehicle industry develop under its own steam. The electric charging sector is slightly different in that we do need one standard format across the world but all parties involved in this particular area have been in talks for some time about an acceptable solution.
Is this going to impact the electric vehicle market?
In physical terms there should be minimal impact upon the electric vehicle market because the recharging network is still at a relatively early stage of development. It is perhaps the fact that politicians have now chosen to get involved in a "heavy-handed" way which might cause some backlash from manufacturers, motoring associations and motorists around the world. This is perhaps a sign that the electric vehicle industry is becoming more powerful, is having a greater influence, and is ultimately impacting (or should begin to) tax income for governments around the world.
While it would be wrong to suggest that the electric vehicle industry should be left to "police itself", it is also wrong to suggest that the European Union should dictate each element of its development. The idea of banning CHAdeMO technology across Europe by 2018 in favour of the CSS recharging technology on the surface seems crazy but perhaps politicians have got it right in the long term?
For now we will give EU MPs the benefit of the doubt and assume they have made the right choice in the long-term, having taken a very brave but potentially controversial decision in the short term. Fingers crossed!