Electrify America’s DCFC Stations Favor CCS Charging Standard

By Paul Gipe

Electrify America, a Volkswagen subsidiary, is building hundreds of charging stations across North America as part of its settlements for the Diesel-Gate pollution scandal. Each EA station includes four to six DC Fast-Charging kiosks. However, EA’s deployment favors the charging standard used by VW over that by its Japanese competitor Nissan. EA is building a charging network that when complete will give its parent company, VW, a competitive advantage.

Volkswagen, along with American manufacturers, uses the CCS (Combined Charging System) fast-charging standard. Its competitor, Nissan, uses the CHAdeMO standard. (Tesla, which uses its own standard, can charge at CHAdeMO kiosks with an adapter.)

ChargePoint and EVgo, EA’s competitors in the fast-charging market, deploy charging kiosks that serve both charging standards equally. Each ChargePoint and EVgo dispenser includes two cables: one for CHAdeMO, and one for CCS. Each EA kiosk also has two cables; however, for all but one of the dispensers at a site, each cable serves only the CCS standard.

In California, VW entered a consent degree with CARB (the California Air Resources Board) for the Diesel-Gate scandal specific to the state. CARB’s consent decree requires VW to install hundreds of DC fast-charging stations in California. The consent decree also requires the company to implement an education and awareness campaign in addition to the deployment of a DC fast-charging network. CARB’s settlement stipulates that the education campaign must remain “brand neutral,” but there’s no parallel requirement for VW’s design of the DC fast-charging network to be “brand neutral” and it’s not.

Electrify America claims in its 2019 2nd Quarter report that its “DC fast charging sites support both the CCS Combo and CHAdeMO connectors, ensuring that all sites are universally compatible with today’s electric vehicles.”

While this is technically true, it’s deliberately misleading. EA does provide both CHAdeMO and CCS kiosks at its stations. However, EA typically offers only one CHAdeMO kiosk per site compared to either four or six CCS kiosks depending upon the location.

The Alternative Fuels Data Center reports that EA has 28 stations operating in California as of early September 2019. EA has 28 CHAdeMO kiosks and 128 CCS kiosks installed, or one CHAdeMO per station.

Unfortunately, EA’s CHAdeMO kiosk also serves as a CCS dispenser. A CCS vehicle can pull into an empty station and plug in at the only CHAdeMO kiosk and charge. This prevents a CHAdeMO enabled vehicle from charging even though there are three to five remaining unoccupied kiosks.

Thus, EA station deployment is not “brand neutral” and favors the charging standard VW–as well as other German and American manufacturers–use.

ChargePoint & EVgo Use Dual Standard Kiosks

Compare EA’s kiosk design to that of EVgo or ChargePoint. Most new EVgo and ChargePoint DCFC kiosks offer both CCS and CHAdeMO capability on the same dispenser. An EV using either standard can charge at any unoccupied kiosk.

EVgo and ChargePoint also now typically install two or more dual standard kiosks per station. If one kiosk with a CHAdeMO is occupied and a Nissan Leaf pulls up, it can charge at the remaining kiosk using its CHAdeMO cable.

ChargePoint provides 147 CHAdeMO connections and an equivalent number of CCS connections at nearly 100 stations in California. EVgo offers 573 CHAdeMO connections at nearly 300 stations. EVgo, because of its early station design, only provides 270 CCS connections throughout the state. EVgo’s new sites use dispensers serving both standards equally.

If a Nissan Leaf pulls in to an EA station and the CHAdeMO kiosk is occupied or inoperative, they’re simply out of luck and have to search for another charge station. Consequently, Nissan Leaf drivers would be wise not to depend on EA stations and instead steer toward EVgo or ChargePoint stations where there’s a greater probability of finding an open and functioning CHAdeMO dispenser.

CARB Unconcerned EA Station Design Plays Favorites

Volkswagen has a vested interest in promoting CCS charging kiosks over those using the CHAdeMO standard. It appears that EA has designed its stations to reflect its parent company’s marketing plans despite what it says in its quarterly report to CARB.

Dave Clergen, a CARB press officer, confirms there is no provision in the settlement agreement that requires equal support for each type of non-proprietary (that is, non-Tesla) charging standard. He went on to say that, “Almost all BEVs available today use the CCS connector standard. Electrify America’s use of CCS connectors align with that information. In addition, Electrify America stations are designed to provide 150-kW and 350-kW charging that CHAdeMO connectors are not able to support. Each Electrify America DCFC station has one CHAdeMO connector for 50 kW charging.”

Buyers of Nissan’s Leaf might be surprised to know that “almost all BEV’s today use the CCS” standard. Nissan still uses CHAdeMO.

CHAdeMO Still a Player

Though Nissan represents only one manufacturer, through the spring of 2019 they’ve sold 130,000 EVs in the USA–more than any other manufacturer except Tesla. And Tesla, of course, doesn’t use the CCS standard either, but it does offer a CHAdeMO adapter for use at non-Tesla stations.

Through September, Nissan sold 9,000 Leafs in 2019, second only to Chevy’s Bolt, (13,000) and well ahead of VW’s e-Golf (4,000) among non-Tesla EVs.

There are also a number of conversions of Toyota’s RAV4, Mercedes B-Class EVs, and the Tesla Roadster by QC Charge (formerly Quick Charge Power) that uses CHAdeMO.

Nissan won’t comment on whether they have any plans to drop CHAdeMO. And they’ve taken the high road and won’t comment directly on EA’s station design. Instead, they noted that “Nissan supports any initiative that increases EV adoption and provides more charging options,” says Nissan’s Jeff Wandell.

Continent wide, there are still roughly the same number of CHAdeMO and CCS ports today. There are 3,700 CHAdeMO outlets at 2,650 stations, and 4,400 CCS connections at 2,500 stations in the US and Canada, including those installed by EA as part of its various consent decrees.

CEC Requires Dual Standard Dispensers

The California Energy Commission also hasn’t abandoned CHAdeMO. The CEC has been funding the development of a statewide network of DC fast-charging stations for several years. There are several large contracts still remaining to be completed in the CEC’s most recent series of grants for both North-South Corridors and Interregional Corridors.

All corridor agreements require that each DC fast-charging dispenser or kiosk serve both the CHAdeMO and CCS standards.

For example, the CEC awarded a $2.5 million contract with Recargo to build 33 dispensers at 11 stations, between the Oregon border and Santa Rosa, California on Hwy 101, and three other dispensers between Hwy 99 and Hwy 101. Each site must include one 150-kW dual port kiosk serving both the CHAdeMO and CCS standard.

Recargo has built one station in conjunction with Monterey County in Prunedale, California. They deployed six dual-standard kiosks. Each dispenser serves CCS at 200 kW and CHAdeMO at 75 kW.

Similarly, the CEC awarded a $2 million contract to ChargePoint for a Northern California Express Corridor to install nine dual-port 50 kW DC fast-charging stations with both CHAdeMO and CCS connectors along I-5.

The CEC’s new program, CALeVIP, has $39 million in funds for grants to install both DC fast-charging stations and Level 2 stations in the state. The program could be expanded to up to $200 million. To win grants, all DC fast-charging stations must provide both CHAdeMO and CCS standards on each dispenser.

Plug in America Calls for Dual Connectors

The Electric Auto Association “has no current position” on Electrify America’s charging standard preference, according to Raejean Fellows, the association’s president.

However, Plug in America, has taken a stand. In its October 2018 comments to CARB about EA’s Cycle 2 plan, Plug in America specifically recommended that CARB ensure EA’s “public fast charging locations support a balance of CCS and CHAdeMO plugs.” Plug in America noted in their filing that the most common complaint about Electrify America’s Cycle 1 DCFC station roll out from drivers was that the imbalance between CCS and CHAdeMO plugs at EA’s stations prevented some drivers with CHAdeMO-enabled vehicles from charging.

Despite Electrify America’s favoritism to its parent company’s charging standard, the build out of their stations is welcomed by drivers of both CHAdeMO and CCS standards and by EV advocates as well. There are simply not enough non-Tesla stations currently to complete a network anywhere in North America, including California. The number of non-Tesla stations and charging kiosks still fall woefully short of that in the extensive Tesla network. Tesla has 16,500 connections at nearly 5,000 stations across the continent. All the non-Tesla charging providers together have only half the stations in the Tesla network and only one-quarter the DCFC dispensers as Tesla–regardless of charging standard.

Electrify America Response to Paul Gipe:

“Electrify America charging stations are designed to meet the anticipated charging needs of future consumers, including those driving EVs with larger batteries capable of charging at ultra-fast speed.  After surveying automakers and evaluating which non-proprietary charging protocols are forecast to be needed going forward, Electrify America found that three types of plugs are used in the U.S. DCFC market: (1) Tesla’s proprietary plug works with Tesla vehicles, (2) the CHAdeMO plug works on Nissan Group vehicles, and (3) the Combo/CCS plug, developed through a process of the Society of Automotive Engineers.  The Combo/CCS connector works with every other major automaker’s new vehicles, including Ford, GM, Fiat-Chrysler, Mercedes-Benz, Volvo, Kia, Hyundai, Harley-Davidson, Energica, Honda, BMW, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Lucid, and Proterra.

We designed stations to offer both CCS connectors and one CHAdeMO connector at each public DC fast charging station, but chose to offer more CCS charging capacity based on our expectation that there will be a greater supply of vehicles on the roads utilizing the CCS standard going forward.  By the end of its first Cycle, Electrify America will have installed nearly 500 CHAdeMO chargers nationwide.  Customers can use Electrify America’s Pass + App to find a CHAdeMO charger and to determine which chargers are in use.” 

Paul Gipe has leased a Nissan Leaf, owned a Chevy Volt, and currently drives a Chevy Bolt.

For the viewpoint of one long-time Nissan Leaf driver see Volkswagen, CHAdeMO, and Charging Equity by Dave Laur.