Nissan leaf with cable attached

The battle lines are hardening.

At issue here are the competing DC fast charge standards, CHAdeMO (which is established and works with the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i) and the new SAE Combo Charger (which is not yet available on any cars for sale, and won't be for a while). CHAdeMo is, mostly, supported by Japanese companies, while the SAE Combo plug gets its backing from U.S. and German automakers. The two sides are currently in a war of words, but an important one.

Shad Balch, GM's manager of environment and energy policy, said during a recent public hearing in California that there should be a CHAdeMO embargo, "we need to make sure, especially because we're talking about taxpayer money, that ONLY those standards [i.e., the SAE combo plug] are installed going forward," Torque News reports. The crowd booed Balch, but he went on to say that, "there is a very small group of cars that use a non-standardized level 3 charging connector." We've heard that the first vehicle to get the SAE connector will be the Chevrolet Spark, sometime in 2013.

At CHAdeMO's General Assembly 2012, held yesterday in Tokyo, the Asian team responded. According to Hybrid Cars, CHAdeMO president Toshiyuki Shiga (who is also the COO of Nissan) said, "in the U.S. and in Europe there is a movement to eliminate the CHAdeMO by making the combo a regional standard." At the event, the SAE Combo option was repeatedly called "the plug without the cars."

GM and Balch are clearly fighting against Nissan's pure EV dominance, but they can't change the fact is that CHAdeMO is leading the way. Recently, at the SAE World Congress, Nissan was displaying some facts about CHAdeMO. As of the end of March 2012, 33 companies (including charging station suppliers) supported CHAdeMO and there were 1,071 CHAdeMO quick chargers installed around the world. Since the SAE Combo Charger is so new, there are no stations or cars that support it – yet – but most of the charging station companies we've talked to recently said they'll get behind whatever technology customers want. This war of words will likely determine which plug that is.