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March 4, 2011updated 08 Apr 2021 8:13am

GENEVA: EV standardisation occupies the minds of auto execs

The need for common standards for EV charging plugs and infrastructures was a key issue at the Geneva show.

The need for common standards for EV charging plugs and infrastructures was a key issue at the Geneva show.

Reuters reported that a lack of standardisation could become an issue when the zero-emission cars start to sell in larger numbers.

The agency spoke to a number of executives who said that standardisation and harmonisation is a big critical issue in Europe. Michel Gardel, vice president at Toyota Motor’s European operations, said: “Because for now if we travel from Denmark to Italy you have to change your plug four times.”

Reaching a common industrial policy for anything is difficult in Europe because governments prioritise domestic interests.That could be a problem for electric cars if and when they are capable of longer distance, cross-border travel.

Executives at Renault and Nissan, which wants to be a clear leader in EVs, said it expects drivers to use them for commuting and short-distance driving, plugging in mostly at home. Simon Thomas, senior vice president of Nissan’s European operations, told Reuters: “At the worst, it’s a minor inconvenience.”

Even without a common standard, Thomas said, consumers would most likely have an extra cost of just a few hundred euros to buy a different cable to plug in.

Executives expect any decision on standardisation to be at least two years away, when Europe’s top automaker, Volkswagen, is planning to enter the EV market.

Ford Europe CEO Stephen Odell said standardised regulations would help carmakers cut costs which in turn would help them keep factories open and jobs secure. He added: “It is a conversation that I have with any politician who will listen. In the end, unless you have an industrial policy, you’re going to struggle in the global economy.”

Having one standard in the vast Chinese market was a big advantage that could help EVs spread fast in China, according to Wang Chuanfu, chairman of Chinese carmaker BYD, adding that approval for standardisation in China is expected  in the first half of this year.

Nissan executive vice president Colin Dodge is confident that the future is bright for electric vehicles. “Pure EV will have a big market. Plug-in hybrids will have a reasonably sized market for large cars, and internal combustion engines will always exist,” he said.

He added that Nissan expected to deliver 5,000-6,000 EVs in Europe in the business year ending 31 March 2012.

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