EV Charging News From California, China, & North Carolina

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There’s a lot happening in the world of electric cars these days. Tesla is knocking the cover off the ball with the Model 3, Jaguar and Kia have new electric SUVs coming to market shortly, and Nissan is busy updating the LEAF into a real electric car with real range. The question on everyone’s mind is, will EV charging infrastructure be able to keep up with the surge in electric car sales?

A German/Chinese Partnership

German company Hubject and Star Charge China have announced a partnership they say will lead to the largest open platform charging network in the world. Combined, the two companies will have more than 100,000 charge points available to customers in China, Europe, and the US.

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On its website, Hubject says, “With more than 300 partners, the Hubject platform is the biggest international digital B2B market place for services related to the charging of electric vehicles. More than 55,000 charge points on three continents are connected to the open Hubject platform.”

The partnership will provide Star Charge China with an entrée into the European charging market and strengthen Hubject’s presence in China, where it already has an office in Shanghai, according to a report in Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology.

“In Star Charge, we have found the perfect partner in China who will help us to push on with our vision of customer-oriented charging in this very important market,” added Christian Hahn, CEO of Hubject. Shao Danwei, CEO of Star Charge, adds “We are pleased about the collaboration with Hubject, as we can now offer convenient access to our network to even greater numbers of people, both in China and in Europe.”

The partner’s claim about having the largest charging network in the world may be subject to revision if ChargePoint follows through on its plans to install 2.5 million charging stations in North America and Europe in the next few years.

Electrify America chargers
Image courtesy Electrify America

Electrify America Begins Phase II In California

Electrify America will invest $800 million over 10 years to expand EV charging infrastructure in California. The four phase plan kicked off last year with the addition of charging stations to the Golden State’s largest urban areas. Phase I is due to be completed by next summer but Electrify America has already begun making plans for Phase II which will run from July, 2018 through December, 2021.

“In developing our plan, we conducted a robust outreach process to solicit input and met with leaders in California communities, government and business to inform our decisions,” Giovanni Palazzo, CEO of Electrify America, says in a statement to the press.

“Our goal to establish one of the largest, most technologically advanced and customer-friendly charging networks in the U.S. remains. We want to demystify what it means to own and drive electric vehicles by making chargers more visible, more convenient, and more a part of the everyday lives of Californians across the state.”

This next phase will target more home charging equipment for single family homes as well as condominiums and apartment buildings throughout the state as well as more fast chargers in other urban areas. Perhaps the most unique feature of Phase II is an incentive program that will pay EV owners to allow utility companies to manage individual charging sessions to help balance the electrical grid.

Some chargers will be dedicated to electric bus and truck needs as well as Uber and Lyft drivers who use electric cars to provide ride hailing services. Finally, selected locations will benefit from zero carbon electricity thanks to solar panels and battery backup installations.

Smaller, More Efficient Fast Charger

Researchers at North Carolina State University have engineered a new fast charger they say is one tenth the size of conventional equipment and is also more efficient. At present, their prototype is limited to 50 kW of power, but plans are afoot to boost that up to as much as 350 kW.

Professor Srdjan Srdic says a conventional 50 kW fast charger includes a distribution transformer that weighs as much as 2,200 lbs plus a separate fast charger unit which can weigh an additional 600 lbs. “Our 50 kW medium voltage fast charger weighs only around 100 kilograms and can be wall- or pole-mounted,” he says.

“The MVFC does the work of both the transformer and the fast charger, taking power directly from a medium-voltage utility line and converting it for use in an electric vehicle battery. This new approach offers four times more power from the same system footprint, reducing the system installation costs at the same time.”

Costing less money to manufacture and install would be important considerations for expanding EV charging infrastructure. In tests, the new equipment is 97.5% efficient. Many conventional chargers are only 93% efficient. “In other words, we were able to cut the wasted energy by more than 60%,” Srdic says.

“We’ve had the more powerful, multi-vehicle MVFC in mind for some time, and recently received funding from the Department of Energy to build a next-generation prototype,” says professor Srdjan Lukic. “In the multi-port station design, a utility line is connected directly to a solid-state transformer which then feeds a local DC microgrid with battery storage systems and multiple charging nodes.”

The multi-port MVFC will have a rating capacity of one megawatt, with each charging node capable of providing up to 350 kW of power. “We are building five charging nodes into the prototype, but there could be twice as many or more. We’re currently looking for industry partners to help us move from our fully functional prototypes to the marketplace,” Lukic says.

Charging equipment isn’t as sexy as the electric cars that are starting to find their way onto America’s highways and byways but is just as essential to the success of the electric car revolution.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." You can follow him on Substack and LinkedIn but not on Fakebook or any social media platforms controlled by narcissistic yahoos.

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