PARIS – Dozens of cities around Europe are preparing to install recharging points for electric vehicles in public areas, but the French-German working group that will recommend what type of plug to use has until March 31 to report.

Until a standard is agreed upon, recharging for early EV arrivals on the market will be done from normal 220-volt household sockets.

“The industry can begin with domestic charging for urban and suburban driving,” says Igor Czerny, director-transportation for EVs at the French electric-company EDF. The “second stage” is using a dedicated terminal and plug.

“While waiting for a European standard, public recharging stations will have an industrial-strength domestic socket that can resist water and physical shocks,” he predicts.

The French government believes the country will see about 700,000 EVs on the road and 1.3 million plug-in hybrids in 2020, requiring 4 million private charge points, 340,000 public recharging points for normal recharging and 60,000 fast charge points.

France is subsidizing a plan to install 75,000 charge points in 14 cities by 2015.

The idea of a special socket is important for so-called “smart charging,” in which software determines when rates are lower to recharge at night and also can sell electricity back to the electric grid if the car doesn’t need it.

That kind of communication between car battery and electric grid requires the extra connections in a 5- or 7-pin connector. Existing domestic connections comprise two power pins and a ground.

While domestic connections are not the same throughout Europe, the European Commission believes existing adaptors can be used.

For normal recharging, the infrastructure and vehicle will be connected by a cable carried in the trunk of the car with a plug at each end. The socket on the car side could be whatever the auto maker wants, but the idea of standards is that the socket on the infrastructure side should be the same everywhere.

Three plug types are being considered for normal recharging: a 5-pin round connection commonly called Yazaki J-1772, a 7-pin connector favored by German auto makers, called Mennekes-type, and a 7-pin oblong connection being pushed by a French-Italian group commonly called Schneider or Scame-type.

Many of the first electric cars coming to market, including the Nissan Leaf; Mitsubishi iMiEV and its rebadged-twins, the Peugeot iOn and Citroen C-Zero; and the Ford Focus, are using Yazaki terminals on the car side.

In France, the charging cables included with PSA Peugeot Citroen EVs have a 3-pin household plug at the other end. The auto maker plans to sell up to 50,000 of the vehicles by 2015.

On the wall side, early installations of public recharging points are testing a variety of connections. In Berlin, for instance, Smart EV test fleets are using Mennekes connections on the charging stations as well as the cars.

In suburban Paris, the EDF and Renault SA use Schneider connections on the wall side. In Strasbourg, a test fleet of plug-in Toyota Priuses is using European campground sockets. And in Denmark, Better Place is setting up a private network of recharging points using its own 5-pin, triangular plug and socket.

Normal recharging will occur at 3kW, so it will take about seven hours to put 21 kWh back into a battery. Fast-charging in Europe at 42kW will require just half an hour.

The EDF believes normal recharging will handle more than 90% of EV use in Europe, and that fast-charging is more of a psychological than actual benefit for the EV industry.

“Fast-charging will be expensive,” says Czerny, EDF’s director-EV transportation.

Not only will fast-charge stations require heavy capital investment, but recharging in daytime will add to electricity peaks that give the infrastructure headaches. Where a safe domestic socket costs a few euros, a public recharging spot can cost more than E5,000 ($6,500).

Standards for fast-recharging are even further away than for normal recharging. There are at least two competing ideas for fast-charging. In both cases, proponents envision the cable at the wall end to be permanently connected to the infrastructure, the same as with a gasoline pump handle.

In Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., Toyota Motor Corp., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. (Subaru) and Mitsubishi Motors Corp. have agreed on a fast-charge system called CHAdeMO.

This is an abbreviation for “Charge de Move,” which is a pun on the Japanese phrase: “O cha demo ikaga desuka,” or “Let’s have some tea,” while charging up. It adds a range of about 2.5 miles (4 km) per minute.

At least three European companies are producing charging terminals using the CHAdeMO protocol, including SGTE Power group and evTronic Eurl in France and Epyon Power BV in the Netherlands.

While CHAdeMO would seem to be a default choice for fast-charging, it has competition.

“Nissan and Mitsubishi are going down the same road, and PSA is the same as Mitsubishi, but Renault is not taking the same road,” notes Francois Jauman, who follows the EV industry for consultants PriceWaterhouseCoopers in France.

Renault favors an alternating current connection. At last month’s Paris auto show, the auto maker’s mockup of a fast-charge station used the Mennekes connector at the car end.

Being the company that develops the standard gives it an advantage, because it will have more experience, says Jauman. But the real advantage of setting a standard is it permits mass production, which lowers costs.

“If you are the only one with your technology, you can’t impose it on others and you can’t manufacturer on a large scale,” he says.

Any recommendation coming from the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization likely will end up as a European standard, because it’s working under a mandate from Antonio Tajani, EC vice president-industry and entrepreneurship.

Tajani has asked the group to work with the International Electrotechnical Commission to review and recommend standards that “would allow users to use the same charger for a range of electric vehicles and also ensure EV chargers can be connected and operated in all European Union states.

CENELEC accepts public comment on proposed standards for five months and then has a window of about two months for the national committees in 31 European countries to vote on the proposals.

Larger countries such as France, Germany, Italy and the U.K. have 10 votes, while smaller ones have one or two votes. For agreement on a standard, a majority of the 31 countries must be in favor, with 71% of the weighted votes.

The European auto makers association, ACEA, recommends a standard wall-side socket be mandatory in 2017, but even then it expects home recharging to be permissible.

When the EV industry is up and running, says Czerny, recharging batteries should be as simple as using an Apple computer. “It must be easy to use, not expensive and safe.”