U.S., German auto companies agree on fast charging system

DETROIT Fri May 4, 2012 7:54pm EDT

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan August 25, 2009. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky

The General Motors logo is seen outside its headquarters at the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan August 25, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Jeff Kowalsky

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DETROIT (Reuters) - Seven automakers, including General Motors Co and Ford Motor Co, have agreed to adopt a fast-charging system that can charge electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in as little as 15 minutes.

The group's goal is to make charging an electrified car as simple as filling a gas tank. Chrysler Group LLC is the latest automaker to join the consortium, which also includes members from Volkswagen AG and its luxury Audi brand, Daimler AG, Porsche and BMW.

The ability to quickly charge cars like GM's Chevrolet Volt and Ford's Focus Electric is crucial to making them more popular among consumers, said Mike Tinskey, associate director of vehicle electrification for Ford, the No. 2 U.S. automaker.

The charging method championed by Ford and others in the group will be showcased at a electric vehicle conference in Los Angeles next week, the automakers said in a press release.

But the approach supported by Ford and others is not compatible with the technology already used by Japanese automakers. Nissan Motor Co's Leaf electric car uses the "CHAdeMO" system to quickly charge, for example.

The lack of consensus has slowed the construction of fast charging stations in the U.S. market and illustrates some of the struggles facing the burgeoning electric car industry.

Ford believes its system will be used in its vehicles beyond 2020, Tinskey said. ACEA, a trade group of European automakers, will use the charging system for all new vehicle types in Europe beginning in 2017, the press release said.

"We think this is a very long-term solution," Tinskey said.

Charging stations equipped with fast charging capability are projected to be available later this year. These stations can cost anywhere from $25,000 to $90,000 depending on how much power is available in a particular area, Tinskey said.

(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman)

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