SAE International has approved a new fast-charging technical standard for plug-in electric and EVs, one that promises to reduce fast-charging times down to as little as 20 minutes.

The SAE J1772 conductive charge coupler standard, also known as the Combo, was developed in cooperation with 190 global experts from the automotive, charging equipment, utilities industries as well as national labs, who adopted and endorsed a combo strategy in their approach.

In its original version, J1772 defined AC Level 1 and AC Level 2 charge levels and specified a conductive charge coupler and electrical interfaces for AC Level 1 and AC Level 2 charging.

The new revision now incorporates DC charging, where DC Level 1 and DC Level 2 charge levels, charge coupler and electrical interfaces are also defined. The standard has been called Combo because it combines Level 2 and Level 3 charging.

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According to reports, carmakers are looking very actively at Level 3 charging, or DC fast charging, which can accommodate currents as high as 500 volts from public charging stations because it will allow users to juice up their rides rapidly – some automakers want charge times of around 10 minutes, about the same time as it takes to fill up a tank of gas.

There is however a thorn to universality, in the form of the CHAdeMO standard, which Japanese automakers are backing. More than 1,500 charging stations utilising the standard are in operation, mainly in Japan, and the likes of the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV utilise it.

Both it and Combo provide DC fast charging, but the connectors are different, as are the communication protocols between the charger and a vehicle’s electrical systems.

Combo proponents say the J1772 is inherently better because it combines both Level 2 and fast-charging into a single plug, thereby eliminating the need for two distinct receptacles on an EV and keeping it all neat and tidy with one. The dust definitely hasn’t settled – hopefully, things don’t shape up into another VHS/Betamax tussle for dominance.