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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Honda Disses CHAdeMO

Honda's recent EV announcement could be a harbinger of doom for CHAdeMO.

Honda Clarity Electric

Honda is currently selling a fuel cell version of the Clarity in limited regions and quantities. At the New York Auto Show this year, Honda announced a pure electric and a plug-in hybrid version of the car would soon go on sale.

According to Automotive News, the upcoming electric Clarity will only have 25.5 kWh of battery capacity for about ~80 miles of range. If true, that’s a big nothingburger. In a world with the Chevy Bolt and the (coming soon) Tesla Model 3, an EV with less than 100 miles of range is not much to get excited about. This would have been noteworthy in 2011, but now, it's uninteresting.

To add insult to injury, Honda says its target price for the electric Clarity is $35,000. This is in the same price range as the Bolt and the Model 3 which each have more than double the range. You would have to really love Honda to buy an 80-mile EV when you could get a 215+ mile EV for the same price.

Honda has not been enthusiastic about EVs, so a lackluster offering is not surprising. The big surprise, for me, was something in the details of the press release. It was that the DC fast charging port on the Clarity was a CCS port. Honda's previous EV the Fit EV didn't have a DC fast charge port.

Honda's Japanese brethren (Nissan and Mitsubishi), as well as South Korea's Kia, have selected the CHAdeMO port for their plug-in vehicles. The market does need to eventually converge on a single charging standard. And if Japan's automakers cannot stand together to support CHAdeMO, this might be the crack in CHAdeMO armor that causes its eventual fall.

If the EV market continues to grow, as I believe it will, Honda will continue to offer more EVs. Eventually, they may make something beyond a mere compliance car. If they do make an EV that people are actually interested in buying, and it has a CCS port instead of CHAdeMO, this would add significantly weight to the CCS camp.

Continuing with Beta and VHS is not a long term solution.

If the market did converge on CCS over CHAdeMO. Then Nissan and others in the CHAdeMO camp would need a migration strategy. To transition to CCS, it would not be easy. They would need to switch after a large CCS network had been deployed. Perhaps by the VW settlement funds. Next, they would need to wait for a major product refresh, the next gen Leaf for example in Nissan's case. The last piece of the puzzle would be an adapter. Adapters would allow cars with CCS ports to use CHAdeMO stations and vice-versa. This would allow customers to use the DC fast charging regardless of the infrastructure deployed in their area.