One cheer for SAE

SAE gets well-earned kudos for getting the U.S. auto industry to agree on a single standard for the plug design used to charge electric vehicles.

But it shouldn’t be resting on its laurels, a senior Ford engineer said during a panel at the SAE 2011 World Congress this week.

“We’re in a race on standards that, bluntly, we may not win because it’s taking a long time to get these through committees,” said Charles Gray, Ford’s chief engineer for core electrification engineering.

“I can’t imagine not taking advantage of the opportunity, as this industry is reborn,” he said, to make electric vehicles simple and standard, “rather than putting the burden on the consumer” to deal with plugs and other annoying issues.

Standards matter.

Think Betamax vs. VHS, Kindle vs. Nook, BlackBerry vs. Android. Do consumers really want to have to change charging systems when they buy their second EV?

The Nissan Leaf is capable of handling Level 3 fast charging. But it’s out on a limb, if you’ll pardon the expression, because it doesn’t know if the format it uses will be the one that the U.S. adopts.

As Enterprise Editor Dave Guilford reported in the April 11 issue of Automotive News, SAE is developing a U.S. standard for the Level 3 connector, but probably won’t decide on one until next year.

I think Gray is right to ask what’s taking so long.

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