SAE Combo Connector Combines Level 2 And 3 Charging Into One Plug


The Society of Automotive Engineers, or SAE, has taken its sweet time settling on a new fast charging standard for American and European automakers. This week the SAE finally  revealed their new fast EV charger, which combines both Level 2 and Level 3 charging in a single plug. This will eventually allow for charging times as quick as ten minutes.

The Nissan Leaf uses the Chademo system, which utilizes two separate ports for the Level 2 and Level 3 chargers.

The new SAE-approved charging system is called “Combo,” and it will be backwards-compatible with current Level 2 Charging stations. But it will not be compatible with either the Japanese-designed “Chademo” system, nor Tesla’s proprietary “Supercharger” network. There’s a storm a-brewin’ folks, and if history is any indicator only one of these chargers will survive.

Cars like the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV use two different charging stations; one for the Level 2 Charger, and one for the fast-charging Level 3 unit that allows for a 90% charge in as little as 30 minutes. Having two plugs requires a larger space on the car dedicated to refueling, whereas the gas cap on most of today’s cars is comparatively small. Both the Combo and Chademo systems use direct current for their Level 3 systems, as opposed to the alternating current of Level 1 and Level 2 systems.

The SAE believes their two-in-one plug will allow for a cleaner design, and it has the backing of both European and American automakers. Companies like Ford have held back on including fast charging on their current crop of EVs including the Focus Electric, and now we know why.

The SAE Combo connector combines both Level 2 and Level 3 charging into one single, albeit big, unit.

Patriotism aside, it seems the newer Combo charging system has some advantages over both the Japanese Chademo and Tesla’s Supercharger charging systems. With both U.S. and European automakers backing this style of charging, there are volume issues to consider. The two-in-one design also appears to be superior at least in the sense that it allows for less space dedicated to charging.

Ultimately, consumers will have to decide which system reigns supreme.  The Combo charger’s design makes a lot of sense, but ultimately it could come down to whoever can market their charger better, which unit is faster, and ultimately what charging stations are most widely available. The SAE hopes to eventually deliver charging times in as little as ten minutes…though they probably wouldn’t recommend doing it too often. Too much fast charging will kill even a large battery pack pretty quickly.

There is just a single Chademo charger is just a handful of Chademo chargers scattered across the U.S. right now, and Tesla has installed just four of its own Superchargers, so really it is anybody’s market right now. The Combo charger will debut on the Chevy Spark EV sometime next year. Which charging system is your money on?

Source: SAE

About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he’s running, because he’s one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.

  • Ziv

    That is the best they could do? It is four times the size of Tesla’s fast charging plug.

  • Houstondav

    Really? “There is just a single Chademo charger in the U.S. right now”. Try more like close to 100 with over 15000 cars that can use them vs. 0 combo available and 0 cars that can use them.

  • Brian Keez

    Correction – there are currently over 50 CHAdeMO chargers in operation in the U.S. There are currently thousands of cars that are equipped to use CHAdeMO on the road U.S.

  • Scott

    According to Plugshare, which is probably the most accurate database currently available, there are 145 CHAdeMO public fee and free charging stations in the US that are currently active. There are 8 Tesla Super chargers, all located in CA.

    • Christopher DeMorro

      @ Scott

      I think I’ll try to use Plugshare for my future charging information. That seems about right.

  • You need to change that top picture, It’s not accurate. Compare it to the thidd picture where the smaller round connector has 5 pins (the correct connector). The first picture is actually a proposed European combo connector, IEC 62196-2 Type 2 ‘Hybrid’. The European connector allows for 3 phase AC charging, but the combo connector shown contains only the ground and communication pins in addition to the two HVDC connections.

  • Nixon

    If there are 20 different plugs on the market, and the SAE introduces a new “standard”, that just means there are now 21 different plugs on the market.

    Plugs won’t be standardized any time soon because each new generation of EV’s and new batteries will bring new charging abilities. The Model S has it’s own plug and charger because it has capabilities that are unlike any other cars on the market, including the Tesla Roadster.

    As long as there are new battery advances, and new charger advances, there will be new plugs. At some point you just have to accept that as part of the whole adventure and just deal with it.

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  • Algren12

    Nissan needs to switch to the SAE combo connector for the US and EU. Plus offer an adapter for existing (Chademo) Leafs. At least it’s settled now.

  • BrianKeez

    There are over 150 ChaDemo DC quick chargers nation-wide and will increase greatly once EvGo begins the California installations. Blink Network alone has a reported 150+ ChaDemo chargers as part of the EVProject. The supporters of the SAE plug hope to do conversions of their existing models to EV’s and to simply have the charge port where the gas port is. The supports of the SAE plug just need to start making EV’s.

    DC quick charging has not had any impact on my Nissan LEAF battery after 18 months of quick charging at least three times per week.

    • susannaschick

      rad! that’s good to know. I stumbled across a ChaDemo in downtown LA, but where we really need one is in Malibu, where people drive/ride for pleasure and just need to recharge during lunch.

  • nh2o2

    With only a T2 connector in my zoe y charge from 3kw up to 43kW AC.

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