EV Plug Alliance aims to “push” market players into standardization
Three major European corporations joined together last month to announce the creation of the EV Plug Alliance. The aim of the collaboration, between France’s Schneider Electric and Legrand and Italy’s Scame, is to propose a global standard for connectors to ease the deployment challenges of the electric vehicle infrastructure ahead of the widespread launch of pure electric models from some of the world’s biggest automakers later this year. Agrion talks to Schneider Power division’s innovation director Claude Ricaud about the initiative.
Why did you decide to set up the EV Plug Alliance?
If the electric vehicle market is to take off, then there has to be a charging infrastructure. Users need to have access to standardised plugs and sockets, at least Europe-wide. The standards that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is in the process of finalising involve three different connector formats, Types 1, 2 and 3. When we realised that there was a risk that we could end up with three different solutions on the market, we decided that we had to act to “push” things along and rapidly achieve dovetailing, because vehicle roll-out is only a few months away.
Our view is that the best vehicle-end plug and wall socket plug should be chosen for the IEC standard. There is also no valid reason for choosing the same connectors for both ends of the lead: the standard USB connectors used in IT are a good illustration of the way we see things. We believe that the Type 3 plug, which will soon go by the name of EV Plug, is the right one for this infrastructure. It offers distinct advantages in use, such as safety shutters that prevent users accidentally touching live components inside the connectors. This type of safety mechanism is required by law in 12 EU countries. If we’re aiming for a European standard, then Type 3 is the only one to date fitted with shutters. The second, very important, point is the cost of electric vehicles. The Type 3 connector, since it is optimised for the infrastructure, up to 22kW, is considerably cheaper [than the other connectors on offer].
The way we see things in the Alliance is, that in the future most charging will be done via sockets installed in [public] buildings or in the home. We need an optimised system, in other words the EV Plug Alliance’s Type 3 connector for the infrastructure, and Type 2 for the vehicles − this is very likely to the manufacturers choice, too. This combination also offers customers the best value.
What led Schneider Electric to move into the electric vehicle sector?
Schneider Electric’s core business is energy management, which naturally includes electricity distribution. We aren’t in the car industry as such; we’re not car makers. However, electric cars need charging infrastructures, which will require and use services that are at the very heart of our business. Reducing CO2 emissions is an extremely important factor in energy management. Charging your vehicle during peak electricity times would mean using highly carbon-intensive electricity, because it would be produced by back-up fuel- or coal-fired power stations. If we’re really looking to cut CO2 content, we need to manage charging so that it takes place during off-peak hours, using either wind-generated or nuclear power.
What sort of response has there been to the EV Plug Alliance announcement?
We’re already in touch with a number of companies. The standard, backed by industry players, is one of the IEC models; we haven’t come up with anything new. We have car manufacturers and professional organisations, in particular, who are interested in joining us so that they can play a part in developing the market. We expect to be able to announce new members at the end of the month or early next month.
Our aim is to build as broad an alliance as possible, a wide-ranging alliance for the market as a whole. This is our objective in setting up the Alliance.
You said that the Alliance might initially be for the European market. What about the American and Asian markets?
We were contacted by a leading American organisation interested in what we have set out to achieve. We are striving to become an international standard. If we manage to adopt a truly coherent solution (Type 2 and Type 3 combination) on the European market, which is the first to take off, introduce it widely, and prove that it is the most efficient technically and economically, then that solution − which complies with an international IEC standard − stands a good chance of being implemented on other markets.
Claude Ricaud is Senior VP Power Innovation – Schneider Electric; Chairman of the Electric Vehicle Task Force for the European Engineering Industries Association (Orgalime); and a founding member of the EV Plug Alliance
Interview by Alex Wynne