Volkswagen opts for CCS Combo fast charging

At the Detroit Auto Show last week, Michael Horn, Volkswagen’s CEO for US operations, announced every Volkswagen plug in or battery electric car from now on will use the CCS Combo fast charging system, beginning with the Cross Coupe GTE SUV concept introduced in Detroit.

Horn said Volkswagen plans a major push to install DC fast chargers at all its dealerships and at “hot spots” like highway service plazas and shopping malls this year. Earlier this year, BMW also committed to using the CCS Combo standard on all its i3 cars and said it, too, plans to add many charging stations across the US in 2015.

Infrastructure will have a lot to do with public acceptance of electric and plug in cars. Right now, there are different standards between the US and Europe and between various manufacturers. There are many different kinds of plugs, depending on where you are in the world (see infographic). But with Volkswagen committing to the CCS Combo system, that standard will take on more importance both here and abroad.

Other manufacturers are not convinced of the benefits of fast charging. Ford openly sneers at the concept, insisting its plug in customers are happy to do their recharging at home overnight. Even the Chevy Volt does not have fast charging capability yet. Nissan relies on the older CHAdeMO system for its LEAF. Volvo says it has no plans to offer fast charging on its cars, including the plug in V90 hybrid it will introduce later this year.

Critics of fast charging argue the equipment is much more expensive then Level 2 chargers. More money per unit will result in fewer units being installed, they say. Fast charging can also damage batteries. Even CCS Combo systems slow the rate of charging when battery capacity reaches 80%. After that, the time to a 100% state of charge is hours rather than minutes.

All this struggle over systems and standards will get sorted out eventually. But with Volkswagen and BMW opting for the CCS Combo system, that technology has to be the clear front runner at the moment.