UK EV charger maker targets electric aircraft

UK EV charger maker targets electric aircraft

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

UK startup Petalite is raising funds to commercialise an entirely new charger technology for electric vehicles and aircraft.

The company, based in Birmingham, has developed a modular constant current architecture using a flyback converter that it says is much more reliable that today’s chargers.

The company has so far raised £2.5m in equity with the same amount from four InnovateUK collaborative research projects to develop the technology.

It is looking to sale up production with a contract manufacturer to sell ‘charging as a service’ to local authorities and fleet operators. This means it supplies the hardware, software and charging payment technology and charges for the electricity used.  This is enabled by the higher reliability of the charging system, which is at a comparable cost to today’s chargers, says Leigh Purnell, founder and CEO of Petalite.

Modular EV charger architecture

The architecture is modular and based on independent 1kW units. If one unit fails it doesn’t stop the charger from operating. “Rather than full bridge [topology] with complex control circuits that don’t easily scale we developed units called PowerCores that can stack, each with a 17 year lifetime,” said Purnell, “Three of the power cores give a DC output, and they can be hot swapped in under 60 seconds,” he said. “The units are truly independent have self diagnosis and shut down if there’s a problem and the rest of the system carries on.”

The first products are 7kW single phase and 22kW three phase chargers. Purnell says the charger will work with all electric vehicles using the CCs and ChaDeMo connector systems.

“Reliability and lifetime is absolutely critical in these markets,” said Purnell. “We have spent seven years on the development from payments to firmware to hardware integration,” he said. “We own and maintain the entire stack including the software and management system and baked in security at the hardware level with secure storage on the chip and crypto functions on the chip.”

The chargers use a mesh networking technology called SwarmLink. They also support the ISO15118 standard for both AC and DC charging as well as the OCPP2.0.1 standard. One advantage of the system is in the data capture, he says “We don’t rely on APIs so we can access bare metal data for extra analytics for fleet operators,” he said. The charging as a service approach also opens up the possibility of operating chargers as a virtual power station.

It has worked with UK battery supplier AMTE Power which is planning a battery Gigafactory by 2025.

Petalite is also working with the Midlands Aerospace Alliance and systems integrator Vanti on charging infrastructure for eVTOL electric aircraft as part of the FutureFlight project. Electric aircraft will require high power systems for fast charging and the Petalite architecture runs up to 6.5MW. “No one has asked for that yet but that’s the level that we go to,” he said.

The funding will be used to expand in the UK, Germany and Norway then US and Canada, with production ramping up by the end of 2022. Petalite is aiming for 500,000 units per year from one manufacturing partner, says Purnell. “Our target is to produce 100,000 AC and DC units a year by 2026 with mass production in UK,” said Purnell. “As the supply chains recover at the end of this year the production is ramping up.”

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