In a couple of years, when you can buy your mass market electric vehicle, you'll want to take it for a spin without worrying about converters or transformers to charge your car. While that seems fairly obvious, it is actually a huge international challenge.
Consider other devices: cellphone chargers are not interchangeable between manufacturers, and DVDs are coded by region. Even electrical currents vary in different countries.
So, how do you standardize all electric cars, batteries and charging infrastructures across countries and companies?
The International Electrotechnical Commission is convening in Tel Aviv this week to begin figuring out exactly how to accomplish this. The 73rd IEC General Meeting has brought more than 1,200 private and public officials from 70 countries for a series of lectures and workshops designed to create a unified standard.
Holding the meeting in Tel Aviv is seen as a nod of recognition to the efforts of Israeli Shai Agassi and his company Better Place for pushing forward the electric car. Better Place is designing and installing charging points and battery switch stations for electric cars, as well as partnering with Renault to design an electric car.
Israel will have the first electric car network in 2011, the company has said.
"There are high-level officials from all over the world here today, including several former presidents of the IEC and company presidents," Better Place Vice President for International Standardization Ziva Patir said on Sunday during a break.
"Right now, to plug an electronic device from one country into a socket in another country requires an adaptor. We're trying to set one unified standard which will make all of the components for electric cars interchangeable. You'll be able to drive from Rome to London and recharge anywhere," she said.
It will be a challenge to coordinate among so many relevant players - not just car manufacturers, but battery manufacturers and charging infrastructure manufacturers. Pricing will have to be worked out across countries as well.
"The fact that so many people have come to this conference speaks for itself as to the serious potential of the electric car market," Patir said. Generating a unified standard will enable mass production worldwide and allow the electric car to garner a significant share of the market.
While creating the standard is expected to be a long-term process, it will not hinder Better Place's plans to bring the electric car to Israel by 2011, according to Patir.
"We don't need the standard to begin marketing in Israel," she said.
Whereas just a few short years ago the electric car was not taken seriously as an alternative to the gasoline-powered automobile, that has changed, a Better Place spokeswoman said.
"I was at the auto show in Frankfurt, Germany, recently and all of the auto manufacturers were offering electric car concepts," she said.