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Japan firms to standardise electric car rechargers

TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) - Top Japanese carmakers Toyota and Nissan helped set up a group to standardise fast-charge stations for electric cars on Monday in a bid to promote the spread of the zero-emission vehicles.

The group, led by Japan's biggest utility, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) 9501.T, Toyota Motor Corp 7203.T, Nissan Motor Co 7201.T, Mitsubishi Motors Corp 7211.T and Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd 7270.T, will set a standard for Japan and later aim for an international standard.

Some 158 companies and government bodies are expected to join, including 20 non-Japanese firms such as PG&E Corp PCG.N, Enel SpA ENEI.MI, Endesa ELE.MC, and PSA Peugeot Citroen PEUP.PA.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are seen as one solution to meeting stricter environmental regulations because they have no tailpipe emissions. But they face hurdles such as costly batteries and a limited driving distance compared with conventional cars, as well as the lack of infrastructure to recharge when away from home.

Forming a common “language” for fast-charging electric cars across various brands would save development costs for carmakers and ancillary industries, said the group, called CHAdeMO.

“We will compete when it comes to vehicle performance, but we should cooperate on areas such as infrastructure,” said Nissan Chief Operating Officer Toshiyuki Shiga. Japan’s No.3 automaker will begin selling its first electric car later this year.

Mitsubishi Motors and Fuji Heavy, the maker of Subaru-brand cars, are the world’s only mass-volume automakers now producing battery-run electric cars, with sales so far limited to corporate and government fleets in Japan.

“There are 1,000 electric cars and 150 fast-charge stations in Japan already,” TEPCO Executive Vice President Hiroyuki Ino told a news conference in Tokyo. “Our aim is to form a standard in Japan and make use of that in the world.”

He said the group would lobby international bodies such as the Society of Automotive Engineers and the International Transport Forum to promote its technology. (Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Michael Watson)