One of the criticisms often levied at the drive to get electrically-powered vehicles from the fringe into the mainstream is the current lack of a network of charging stations. Four car manufacturing giants have teamed up with a utility service provider to tackle this problem head on. The newly formed CHAdeMO Association is not only calling for a standard method for charging electric vehicles to be adopted but is also hoping to add some much-needed momentum to the global installation of fast charging solutions.

Mitsubishi, Toyota, Nissan, Fuji Heavy Industries and the Tokyo Electric Power Company have teamed up to help speed up global installation of fast charging technology and so provide an essential support infrastructure for the rollout of electric vehicles. A difficult enough task in itself but the CHAdeMO Association will also look at standardizing how electric vehicles are charged and so avoid any frustrating compatibility issues for users.

These objectives are not as clear cut as they may appear. Rolling out a charging infrastructure that can meet the real-world current and future requirements of everyday electric and hybrid vehicle users needs significant investment as well as political will and mass cooperation. Then there's the issue of getting members of a competitive industry to agree on a standard charging method or even a standard voltage.

Huge challenges ahead

In promoting "electric vehicles through the efforts of technical improvements of quick chargers, standardization activities of charging methods, and international extension of our knowledge related to quick-charger installations", the Association certainly has its work cut out for it. But without such an effort, the mass adoption of the electric vehicle might never happen.

The Association told Gizmag that "under CHAdeMO charging standards, the electric vehicle is the 'master' and the charger is the 'slave'. This means the charger only provides the voltage and current requested by the vehicle. Because of this, as battery technology evolves and even quicker charging becomes possible, older chargers will still be capable of handling charging."

The five founding companies now represent the Executive members and fully expect a further 158 business (made up of power companies, the makers of chargers, vehicle manufacturers and so on) and government interests to shortly get onboard as regular or supporting members. Mazda, Honda and Suzuki - the other major players in Japan's automotive industry - have already joined up.

As well as the name of the Association, CHAdeMO is also the trade name of a proposed charging solution which the Association hopes will be adopted throughout the whole of Japan at first, and then worldwide. The Association will first "work to expand quick-charging spots in Japan and quick-charger maintenance in Japan. Then work to standardize CHAdeMO charging methods around the world. In addition CHAdeMO will work to popularize other kinds of electric vehicle charging outside of quick-charging, as well as collect/spread information regarding charging locations."

Why CHAdeMO?

The logo is made up of the circuit symbol for a battery and a curving line representing movement, which also just happens to look like a smile. As for where the name originates, "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 tea while charging' in English."

Appropriate perhaps, given that current fast-charging technology involves a small wait for the battery to receive a rapid boost from zero to 80 percent and beyond. But as technology marches on, even that is likely to improve significantly.