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Editorial: Technological strength critical in battle over next-generation vehicles

  • September 6, 2018
  • , The Japan News
  • English Press

The international battle for leadership in the field of next-generation vehicles has intensified.


Moves regarding fast chargers for electric vehicles are being closely watched. Japanese and Chinese industry groups have agreed to jointly develop a unified standard for next-generation chargers.


The next-generation standard will enable chargers to have a high output and significantly shorten charging times. They say their joint project aims to put the new unified standard, which is based on Japan’s CHAdeMO standard, into practical use around 2020.


By joining hands with China, Japan will hold more than 90 percent of the market for fast chargers, which are a crucial part of the infrastructure electric vehicles need. This agreement can be applauded for coming close to establishing a global standard for these chargers.


It is hoped that the development of high-performance chargers will be realized using Japan’s technological strength. Increasing power output will cut the time needed for charging and boost the convenience of electric vehicles. This possibly will uncover new demand for electric vehicle purchases.


Unifying standards will give charger manufacturers some certainty in being able to produce products in substantial volumes.


This will lead to reduced production costs and become a tailwind for popularizing next-generation vehicles, such as by increasing the number of charging stations.


There also are expectations that this agreement will benefit carmakers by lowering costs through the standardization of components.

Don’t lose market share


About 18,000 chargers use the Japanese standard. By contrast, China’s standard is used by about 220,000 chargers, the most in the world. However, it also has been pointed out that China’s chargers are prone to breaking down.


The next-generation standard will need to be very safe: preventing electric shocks, for example, and resistant to high temperatures. This was why China proposed jointly developing it, and Japan accepted the proposition.


It will be important to seek a unified global standard for fast chargers by holding discussions with Germany and other nations spearheading the European standard, which is incompatible with the Japanese and Chinese standards. Greater efforts also should be made in India and Southeast Asian nations that are starting to encourage the diffusion of electric vehicles.


Of course, even if Japan and China set the global standard for chargers, it does not necessarily mean the competitiveness of Japanese automakers will increase in the electric vehicle market.


It must not be forgotten that China is a powerful rival in the struggle for supremacy in the global electric vehicle market. There also are concerns Japanese automakers could lose market share to China, which holds an advantage in terms of costs.


The vital thing is to win the competition to develop batteries mounted in vehicles, which hold the key to boosting the performance of next-generation vehicles.


Efforts to further lower prices and improve performance by tapping Japan’s excellent technological capabilities will be essential.


China is not the only rival in this field. U.S. information technology companies such as Google are moving full-steam ahead in the development of digital technologies that will control next-generation vehicles.


Japanese manufacturers need to overcome this historic transition period by distinguishing fields in which they can cooperate with other companies, including those in different industries, from fields in which they will compete.

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