Tokyo Electric Power, a Japanese utility giant, says it has developed a recharging device that can give a small electric car enough charging during a five-minute stop to travel 40 kilometers – a substantial improvement on existing technology. Ten minutes would allow it to travel 60 kilometers.

The devices are expected to be installed at public places in Japanese cities, such as supermarkets and parking lots, and a number of dealerships selling Mitsubishis and Subarus have also agreed to install the stations.

According to the Financial Times (sub. rqd.), the company has been testing the recharging system with Mitsubishi and Subaru, both of which plan to roll out electric cars in 2009 and 2010, as does Nissan. At the charging speeds that Tokyo Electric Power cites, the device should be much faster than existing charging systems. The Tesla Roadster, for example, takes about 3.5 hours for a full charge using its “High Power Connector,” which lets the car drive for about 227 miles, or 365 km. Assuming that every 10-minute increment of charging adds 60 kilometers, the new system would be able to deliver a full charge in about one hour. Even allowing for error on all ends – maybe the utility’s charger is intended for smaller electric cars, or maybe the rate at which electric vehicles charge is more variable – the device is still more speedy than traditional means.  

The national government of Japan, which is pushing a full-scale electric vehicle roll-out, is accepting applications from cities and towns wishing to become “model districts,” where power outlets would become available throughout towns for drivers to use free of charge. A region near Tokyo has committed to installing 150 stations, and proposed programs to offer incentives to EV drivers – such as discounts on parking, insurance, and loans – seem to be gaining traction. There’s also pressure on Japan Post, the newly privatized postal service, to convert all of its mail trucks into EVs.   A few months ago we wrote about another company that has agreements to install electric-vehicle recharging stations in Denmark and Israel, this time in conjunction with Renault-Nissan.  

This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in August 2008.

Copyright Environ Press 2008