Four Japanese automakers and the Tokyo electric utility have established an association to standardise electric vehicle charging and promote the installation of fast charging systems worldwide.

Toyota Motor, Nissan Motor, Mitsubishi Motors, Fuji Heavy Industries (Subaru), and the Tokyo Electric Power Company said on Monday they had formally established CHAdeMO Association and become its executive members.

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.
 
Last August, Nissan, Mitsubishi, Fuji Heavy and TEPCO started a preparatory committee and Toyota subsequently joined the committee, enabling association to be established with the initial five companies as executive members.
 
The founders expect 158 business entities and government bodies, including 20 foreign companies, to join the association, such as automakers, electric utilities, charger manufacturers, charging service providers, and other supporting groups.

"The association is going to promote the electric vehicles through the efforts of technical improvements of quick chargers, standardisation activities of charging methods, and international extension of our knowledge related to quick-charger installations," CHAdeMO said.

Standardizing charging infrastructure is vital to making electric vehicles popular, TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata said.

"We need to make this protocol a standard protocol outside of Japan," he told news agency AFP at a gathering in a Tokyo hotel.

Mitsubishi Motors last year launched the i-MiEV - and has signed a deal to produce OEM versions of PSA brands Peugeot and Citroen, while Fuji Heavy markets the Subaru Plug-in Stella in Japan. Nissan is set to launch the world's first mass market electric vehicle, the Leaf, later this year while Toyota, which has so far focused on hybrids, has promised to launch its own EV by 2012. It has already begun leasing the plug-in Prius hybrid electric vehicle in some markets since late last year, a year earlier than planned.

Standardisation would require all makers to agree on the kind of charging outlet/plug and the voltage, which currently differ among firms.

"It's like establishing a common operation manual or a code that allows the charging machine to work across a broad range of electric vehicles," said Takafumi Anegawa, electric vehicle manager at TEPCO.

The Japanese government has earmarked JPY12.4bn ($13.7m) in the budget for fiscal 2010 starting in April to develop a recharging grid.

But Some officials pointed at hurdles in creating a global standard.

"It will be a big and difficult challenge for the entire world to reach the same method" in charging EVs, Toyota managing officer Koei Saga told AFP. "In the end, we may just need to adhere to the methods in each country."

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