Pretty much everyone knows how to put fuel into a conventional car . . . Electric-car charging isn't quite that simple.
There are three types of charging, for starters: 120-volt Level 1, 240-Volt Level 2, and no fewer than three separate DC fast-charging standards. There are several different plugs, and the same car can charge at different rates depending on the charging station and the network operator—except those rates aren't visible.
And versus the usual array of 87, 89, and 93 octane, consider the names: J-1772, CHAdeMO, Combined Charging Standard (CCS) or "SAE Combo," and Supercharger.
As Matt Teske's wife pointed out, "The plugs look like like Star Wars characters, and the names do too." Teske is a marketer in the Portland area who's worked on various automotive projects for more than a decade and bought his first electric car a few years ago.
The challenge of explaining electric-car charging to novices has nagged at him ever since. Earlier this year, in true activist fashion, he sat down and started sketching. What was needed, he thought, was a simple, uniform graphic way to explain which plug-in electric vehicles could use what kinds of charging—and the speed of that charging. The result is a simple system of color-coded circles for charging standards, with a single number inside to indicate how fast the charging is. The higher the number, the faster the charge. The system is future-proofed and global: new charging methods like wireless can be added with a new color, and China and Europe get a mix of the same colors and numbers with some new, locally appropriate ones added. . . .
An excellent idea, and long overdue. I've spent plenty of time at my local chargers and elsewhere explaining to anxious newbies (not to mention dealer salespeople) the different standards, which ones they can or can't use, and the speeds, and it's simply ridiculous. As PEVs move closer to mainstream acceptance, serious simplification will be needed, or the general public will just throw up their hands and not bother. The only quibble I have is the use of colors alone to differentiate the various types; I'd add shapes (circle, square, triangle, pentagon etc.) to cater for the color-blind.