SAE International says it has approved a new technical standard for fast charging that will dramatically reduce charging times for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids.
The global engineering group said the standard, developed in cooperation with more than 190 automakers, utilities and equipment builders, will cut charging times from as long as eight hours to as short as 20 minutes.
Automakers want DC fast charging, also known as Level 3 charging, to take less than 10 minutes, or roughly the time it takes to fill a tank with gasoline.
Level 1 charging uses 110-volt household current and takes eight hours or more for a full charge. Level 2 charging uses 220 volts and takes about three hours. The goal with Level 3 charging is to accommodate currents as high as 500 volts distributed from public charging stations.
The standard approved by SAE, called Combo because it combines Level 2 and Level 3 charging, has been backed by U.S. and German automakers.
A rival system supported by Japanese automakers, called CHAdeMO, the equivalent of "charge for moving," has more than 1,500 charging stations in operation, most of them in Japan.
"This new technical standard is a real game-changer," said Andrew Smart, director of industry relations and business development for SAE International, in a statement today. "It reflects the advancements in technology within PHEV and EV engineering."
SAE said the standard will result in reduced times at public charging stations, enabling consumers to travel greater distances in their vehicles.
"This new standard reflects the many hours that top industry experts from around the world worked to achieve the best charging solution -- a solution that helps vehicle electrification technology move forward," said Gery Kissel, an engineer with General Motors' Global Battery Systems unit and head of SAE's charging task force. "We now can offer users of this technology various charging options in one combined design."
Next year, GM will introduce the Spark EV that will feature the fast-charging system.
Ford Motor Co., in a statement, said it supports the new standard in part because it "augments and is compatible with the existing electric vehicle charging standard employed by all automakers in the U.S."
SAE said the standard was developed in cooperation with European automotive experts who also adopted a combination strategy in their approach.
The Combo standard approved by SAE and the CHAdeMO standard supported by Japanese automakers provide fast charging through a direct current. They differ from Level 1 and Level 2 charging, which operate with alternating current.
The Combo and CHAdeMO connectors are different. So are their so-called protocols, or the language through which the electrical systems of the vehicle and charger communicate. That means motorists cannot just use a plug adapter to switch from one system to another.
CHAdeMO has the advantage of being tested and in use. Cars such as the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i use it.
Combo proponents say their system is superior because it combines Level 2 and fast-charging (480 volts or more) into a single plug, removing the need for two separate receptacles on a battery-powered car.
David Phillips and Dave Guilford contributed to this report