WITH a steady flow of battery-powered vehicles arriving in showrooms, and charging infrastructure plans being announced almost daily, it would seem that the initial beachhead for electric vehicles is well established.
Yet the prospects for long-distance travel by electricity continue to be limited. Until a mechanism for replenishing a car’s batteries, either by charging them quickly or swapping them altogether, is in place, the appeal of electrics will be constrained. Even with cars for sale that offer 300-mile batteries, a cross-country vacation in a purely electric car remains impractical.
Several fast-charging solutions — typically, systems that can restore a battery to 80 percent of its capacity in 30 minutes or less — are already available, but the connectors and software used in these direct-current chargers are largely incompatible. As standards wars go, the debate over which will become the de facto industry leader is a small-scale version of the epic battle between Betamax and VHS or Apple versus Microsoft.
For drivers, this means that not only must they locate a high-speed charger when they travel, but it has to to be a specific type of charger — a factor that could hurt already struggling E.V. sales.