If you want to jump straight to the news, scroll down to the picture of the new ABB superfast charging station and start reading from there.
Two years ago in Florida, I gave a presentation at the EV Transportation & Technology Summit titled “EV R&D and the Future.” It was based on our first big EV driver report. Of all the interesting findings from the report, the one that stood out the most and led the title of my CleanTechnica article about the presentation was that access to Tesla’s Supercharging network or a comparable superfast charging network was a requirement for many EV drivers and potential EV drivers. For many others, superfast charging was not a requirement but very important and could lead to the respondents choosing one electric car over another. (See slides 40–43 in the slideshow in this article for more details and graphics.)
The problem: There wasn’t a single non-Tesla superfast charging station out there.
This topic was hardly discussed or researched at that time. I figured large automakers and charging networks must have some kind of understanding of this point, though, and must be doing some level of planning. Unfortunately, there was little signal that was the case. Still, I hoped for some announcements of large-scale superfast charging work that had been conducted behind the scenes. Instead, for a long time, I got to enjoy the sound of crickets … and just further appreciate that Tesla has sped up development of its network and now built nearly 1,000 Supercharging stations with a combined total of 6,550 superfast charging ports. (Note: typical power output of Tesla’s Superchargers is 120 kW, compared to approximately 25–50 kW for other “fast charging” options. For more perspective on this, see: “Electric Car Charging 101 — Types of Charging, Charging Networks, Apps, & More!” or “How To Charge An Electric Car — 10 Core Steps.”)
In the past year or so, we have seen some progress and I’ve been more enthusiastic than is probably warranted each step of the way. In November 2016, Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen Group, & Ford signed a superfast charging MoU in Europe (for up to 350 kW charging). Every chance I get, I ask charging and automaker execs what they’ve heard about the progress of this network — I haven’t heard many inspiring comments in response, unfortunately, but there is a working group led by Porsche that is doing something at some pace or another. In July 2017, Porsche also installed what is presumably the first superfast charging station in that network at its new headquarters in Berlin. An electric car can’t charge there yet, but it should become operational sometime this year.
On the left side of the Atlantic, EVgo (which hosts the largest non-Tesla EV fast charging network in the USA) broke ground on the first superfast (aka high-power) EV charging station in December 2016. Practically in tandem, in January 2017, competitor ChargePoint (the largest overall EV charging network in the USA) unveiled a charging station that was modular and could support power output of up to 400 kW. Again, these were great signs of progress that indicated to us the superfast EV charging revolution wouldn’t trail too far behind long-range electric cars from non-Tesla automakers (“Big Auto”). Nonetheless, we’ve been listening to a lot of crickets since those announcements.
Now, before I take one step further, let’s look at one highly important point: the vast majority of an EV driver’s charging is often done at home or work. If an EV driver has charging options both places, they typically do 97–98% of their charging in one of those spots (which, of course, is where their cars sit the vast majority of the time). Superfast charging isn’t critical because charging stations need to replace gas stations — they don’t! One of the supreme benefits of electric car life is that easy charging at home, work, your local coffee shop, the grocery store,
Blockbuster, your local Kodak film processing center, and other common destinations means you seldom have to think about going somewhere specifically to charge your car.
That said, if you want to take a long-distance trip or you don’t have home or workplace charging, superfast charging is more or less mandatory. EV life is only for the most enthusiastic drivers otherwise. This came to mind again yesterday, when someone in the neighborhood saw our Tesla charging and sat down to enthusiastically chat about it for 20 minutes or so. He seemed intent on getting the Model 3, but was still a bit concerned about charging on long-distance trips. I tried to explain how easy Supercharging is and that it shouldn’t be an issue, but he still seemed unsure if it would be manageable for him. I didn’t want to come across as a Tesla fanatic (and don’t think I am one), but when you look at the practicalities of EV life in a fairly mainstream household, this basic factor (long-distance charging) obviously makes discussion of all other fully electric cars a nonstarter. It’s Tesla or gas/petrol/diesel for many mainstream consumers … because how could they drive to Italy or Disney World with a Nissan LEAF, Renault Zoe, Chevy Bolt, or other fully electric offering. (Yes, I know — plug-in hybrids still have a big role to play!)
Our second big EV driver report has again shown outsized demand for superfast charging, but it seems we can still count non-Tesla superfast charging stations on one hand.
That may soon change, and ABB — one of the world’s leading EV charging station producers — would certainly like to be at the forefront of that shift.
In an email just sent my way, ABB has announced that it is about to launch its first 150–350 kW high-power charger, the new Terra HP High Power Charge system. You can’t touch the Terra HP in an IKEA parking lot yet, but you can check out the breakthrough charging product at EVS30 in Stuttgart, Germany. The dates for that event are October 9–11.
“Ideally suited for use at highway rest stops and petrol stations, Terra HP’s ultra-high current has the capacity to charge both 400 V and 800 V cars at full power,” ABB writes.
“The 375 A output single power cabinet can charge a 400 V car at full 150 kW continuously. The addition of Dynamic DC power sharing technology, allows a two-power cabinet charging system to charge a couple of EVs simultaneously, with up to 350 kW and 500 A, while dynamically optimizing the available grid connection and the power delivery to the two vehicles.”
ABB has been one of the world’s top providers of EV fast charging stations, so we’ve long expected that it would be one of the first companies to put a superfast charging station on the market. We have no sense from the press release or email how many orders ABB may have on the books for this product, but I’ll reach out about that and other matters today. However, the company did note that it has sold over 6,000 fast chargers around the world to date. Imagine if it sells that many Terra HP superfast chargers in the coming few years.
Here are more details on the new Terra HP offering from ABB:
Additional power cabinets and charge posts can be added after installation, delivering a cost-effective and future-proof solution for expandable charge points that can grow as the EV base grows.
To further improve performance, Terra HP delivers the highest uptime due to redundancy on power and communication, and individually cooled charging cables. Having proven its paces in numerous commercial electric bus field installations, the power cabinet is also extremely reliable.
For charging operators, Terra HP provides the additional benefit of ABB Ability™ Connected Services, which deliver enhanced functionality, including the ability to easily connect chargers to back offices, payment platforms or smart grids systems. More importantly, remote diagnostics, repair and over-the-air software updates, minimize downtime and keep running costs low.
Terra HP delivers a number of additional benefits for consumers, including an intuitive, easy to use touchscreen display and multiple payment options.
Of course, the rate of charge is only one of my problems with many non-Tesla charging stations. For a deeper dive, see: “Tesla Superchargers vs … Ugh.”
Images by Cynthia Shahan, Tesla, ChargePoint, Cynthia Shahan, and ABB
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