Designwerk Unveils Megawatt Charging System For Electric Trucks

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Swiss based Designwerk Technologies has announced a new Megawatt Charging System for heavy duty trucks that can provide up to a megawatt of power. The new charging system will allow those heavy vehicles to recharge their batteries up to 6 times faster than is possible with a 350 kW charger — the current fast charging standard for automobiles. On its website, the company says “lowering emissions from heavy trucks is of central importance for the energy transition and the achievement of climate targets. The aim is to increase the proportion of low-emission or zero-emission means of transport. For this, we need advanced charging infrastructure for heavy duty vehicles.”

Volvo Group, which manufactures electric trucks, buses, construction equipment, and marine propulsion systems, acquired a majority interest in Designwerk in April of 2021. Volvo Group is not Volvo Cars, which is owned by Geely, but Geely is a minority shareholder in Volvo Group. It’s easy to get confused about who owns what.

Within the EU, 6.6 million trucks move more than 76% of all land-based freight and are responsible for about a quarter of all emissions from road transport. If the climate targets are to be met by 2030, emissions from heavy goods traffic must be significantly reduced. The best way to do that is by electrifying all vehicles, which is well underway in the passenger car sector but is more difficult for long distance and heavy duty traffic.

At the present time, electric trucks have limited range and high power charging infrastructure is lacking in many areas.  With a charging system in the megawatt range, charging times can be significantly reduced, which in turn will increase the competitiveness of battery electric commercial vehicles. Those high power chargers would also open up new opportunities to use electric trucks in continuous driving and shift operations.

Charging heavy duty vehicles can lead to significant peak demand on utility grids. The latest megawatt scale charging technology can reduce or eliminate such demand peaks. “A new kind of charging infrastructure is needed for long distance trucks in particular, as well as for ships and aircraft, says Vivien Dettwiler, a member of the Designwerk management. “It is different from the infrastructure for electric cars and makes it possible to charge heavy commercial vehicles in a short time. This helps to ensure that zero emission freight transport reaches every field of application.”

Designwerk Megawatt Charging System

Designwerk Megawatt Charging System
Image courtesy of Designwerk

Designwerk Technologies is currently building one of the world’s first megawatt charging stations. The container-sized system is scheduled to begin charging heavy duty electric trucks in the spring of 2023. It is based on the new charging standard called the Megawatt Charging System, or MCS for short, which was launched globally in June of this year. Battery buffers are designed to cope with peak demand and to operate in a way that is beneficial to the energy grid. Scientific support for these technical innovations is provided by the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and prominent industrial partners. The research side of the project involves the Bern University of Applied Sciences and the University of Applied Sciences of Eastern Switzerland.

With its Pilot and Demonstration Program, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy promotes the development and testing of new technologies, solutions, and approaches in the field of economical and efficient energy use, energy transmission and storage, and the use of renewable energies. The P+D program positions itself at the interface between research and market and aims to increase the maturity of new technologies in order to ultimately bring them to market.

The demonstration facility is intended to highlight ways in which a high capacity charging network and security of supply can go hand in hand. “We install Second Life e-truck batteries in our charging containers as a buffer to cope with peak demand. This not only eliminates the need to expand the grid, it also means that the battery system should be able to feed renewable electricity back into the grid,” Dettwiler says. Similar to bidirectional charging, electromobility can therefore be incorporated into supply solutions. Demonstration systems at Galliker Transport AG, Käppeli Logistik and Murg Flums Energie will prove that this works.

The Designwerk Megawatt Charging system fits inside a conventional shipping container, which allows it to be easily transported to where it is needed. Its principal characteristics are:

  • Fast charging of heavy e-trucks in 45 minutes
  • Transportable and flexible utilization concept
  • Conformity with the worldwide standard MCS
  • Energy buffering reduces grid connection costs
  • Further use of decommissioned traction batteries

Each Megawatt Charging System has 1,800 kWh of new or used NMC batteries capable of supplying a maximum of 3000 amps at 500 to 900 volts. Maximum power is 2100 kW. The system uses liquid cooled charging cables that conform to the CCS Type 2 and Megawatt Charging System standard. Each system weighs 25 tons and can either be hard wired into an available power source or connected using a CEE 125 device.

Designwerk uses existing modules from the automotive industry, which are then integrated into an overall system. The container provides thermal insulation and protects the battery modules from contact with the outside world. Cooling plates keep the modules in their normal temperature range and a battery management system permanently monitors the entire system, ensuring all protective functions and communications are intact at all times.

Designwerk, together with its partners, insures the recycling of batteries after they reach the end of their useful service life. Battery take-back is secured by an advanced recycling fee and transparent recycling processes. The recovered materials meet the qualitative criteria for use in the secondary raw materials market, which may include use in the production of new batteries.

The Takeaway

It is pretty well known that heavy duty trucks are responsible for a disproportionate amount of emissions. Replacing one diesel-powered truck with a battery-electric model has a much larger impact on emissions that replacing one conventional car with an EV. Private cars are in use, on average, for only about 5% of each day while trucks are in operation from dawn to dusk — or longer.

Planning for the systems to keep those electric trucks charged so they can do their job reliably without putting undue strain on utility grids is important work. Designwerk manufactures a full range of electric trucks, so it is fully aware what the charging systems for them need to be. Effective charging systems can potentially lower the cost of some electric trucks because they may not require enormous battery packs of their own if reliable charging facilities are readily available. The success of the EV revolution depends on such proactive measures that can make the transition to electric vehicles go more smoothly.


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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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