What EV charging technologies to watch for in 2014

What EV charging technologies to watch for in 2014

Technology News |
By eeNews Europe

How smooth is the road ahead for EV charging?

The global market for hybrid and battery powered electric vehicles is finally starting to get a roll on. 2014 looks like being a watershed year for electric vehicles with more than 2.2 million electric drive motors forecast to be hitting roads worldwide.

The coming year will see carmakers begin to move into multiple adjacent markets, which include tapping into plug-in EVs’ inherent connectivity to offer information and entertainment options.  Many carmakers are also planning to run their own car sharing services. Vehicle-to-grid pilot projects will also start to begin generating revenue.

In 2014 several carmakers plan to deliver concept and production-ready electric vehicles with larger batteries featuring capacities of up to 40 kWh that will extend driving ranges to 240 km and beyond. A battery pricing war is building in intensity. LG Chem, which supplies the batteries to the Chevrolet Volt, and Panasonic (Tesla) and Samsung SDI (BMW i3) are starting to compete more intensively which is expected to see battery price reductions that will enable OEMs to equip the vehicles with larger batteries and extend their mileage range.

Production electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) is forecast to rise steeply by market intelligence analyst IHS who reckons that, driven by tighter emission standards, the production of (H)EVs will soar by 67 percent in 2014 compared with 2013. The majority of the growth will go to HEVs and IHS is predicting a global production volume of 403 000 in 2014, up from 242 000. At least 40% of the production volume will come from Europe.

German carmakers look like driving the market forward. BMW has led the way with the company’s i3 electric vehicle but during 2014 Volkswagen will unleash its e-up! vehicle and Daimler plans to introduce its B-Class Electric. Audi will also be offering up the company’s A3 e-tron plug-in hybrid. Mercedes is also planning to introduce its first EV as will other global brands Cadillac, Saab, and Volvo.

BMW’s i3 electric vehicle

The faith of Germany’s major carmakers in EVs and HEVs is in marked contrast to that country’s motorists who are proving to be one of the less enthusiastic populations to embrace the electric revolution.

In reality late last year Estonia became the first and only country in Europe to have deployed an EV charging network with nationwide coverage, with 165 fast chargers available along highways at a minimum distance of 40 to 60 km and a higher density in major cities. In total Europe still only has about 1000 quick chargers installed.

Norway has the highest EV ownership per capita, with more than 4000 charging points which include 100 quick charging stations. The Dutch government is planning to establish more than 200 charging stations across the country by 2015. The rollout will be undertaken by Switzerland-based power and automation company ABB and Dutch start-up Fastned, and will aim to provide at least one station every 50 kilometres.

The installed base of EV charging stations will surpass the 1.1 million units mark, with 35 000 new stations expected in the public and semi-public domain.

In September 2013 ABB received CE marking approval for the company’s 50 kW Terra 53 CCS DC fast charging station for electric vehicles. ABB is the first supplier of CCS DC fast charging solutions to pass CE testing by an independent notified conformity assessment body. The Terra 53 will also be available in dual and triple outlet configurations, serving all electric vehicles present on the European roads, supporting CCS, CHAdeMO and AC Type 2, Mode 3.

ABB’s 50 kW Terra 53 CCS DC fast charging station for electric vehicles

ABB has also participated in BMW and Volkswagen’s Interoperabilty workshops with the Terra 53 and demonstrated charging of the next generation of CCS compatible EVs. BMW used ABB’s Terra 53 at the IAA Live-Drive event in Frankfurt to charge the BMWi3.

German chipmaker Infineon has gone on record to say it is placing a lot of hope on a surge in electric mobility. The company anticipates there will be a ten-fold increase of its sales into the electric mobility sector. Other chipmakers such as Qualcomm have also been eyeing the EV market as a possible lucrative second front in the automotive sector.

Although Infineon’s sales into electrical vehicles make up only one tenth of the sales into the conventionally driven cars market Infineon’s Division President Automotive Jochen Hanebeck suggested: “By the end of the decade both segments could well have the same size.”

Currently sales of Infineon chips designed for deployment in EVs account for double-digit million euros volume which given that automotive semiconductors in general accounts for about one third of the company’s segment sales of about €1.72 billion indicates why the German company is so keen to develop its sales into the EV segment.

BMW’s EV solution is the i3 e-car which is reputed to feature Infineon products worth several hundred euros. An electric vehicle powertrain generally needs twice as many chips, transistors and other semiconductors compared with conventional vehicles which is no doubt why Infineon and other chip makers are circling around the EV market with zeal.

The i3 e-car’s uses a 19kWh lithium-ion battery made up of eight modules, each having 12 cells. The battery can be charged from a standard domestic 13 A socket or from a 32 A 7.4 kW wall box. The i3 also accepts a charge from a 50 kW DC fast-charger.

Last month electric carmaker Tesla Motors and rail operator Deutsche Bahn opened four new charging stations in Germany along key autobahn routes to try and make electric cars viable for long-distance commuting in Germany.

Tesla is striving to build up a network ‘supercharger’ stations to try and broaden the appeal of EVs which have failed to gain widespread acceptance in Germany because of concerns about range and a lack of charging stations that allow for a fast battery top-up. Tesla’s Model S vehicle has a range of 500 kilometres but the company believes a lack of a charging infrastructure has limited its appeal.

BMW’s i3 EV, and Daimler which offers an electric version of its Smart car currently market their vehicles as ‘city cars’ focused on short distance journeys.

Tesla and DB Energie, a unit of Deutsche Bahn which provides electricity for Germany’s rail network, revealed charging stations with 120 kilowatts of direct current power which will enable drivers to replenish half a battery charge in about 20 minutes to make long-distance commuting more viable.

The new supercharger stations have been strategically positioned to support travel between the cities of Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt am Main, and Cologne. Tesla is planning to have a charging network that allows Tesla drivers to reach destinations in half of Germany by March 2014. Tesla now has 14 supercharger stations across Europe which offers drivers six to eight spaces where drivers can get an 80 percent charge of their car’s battery in about 30 minutes.

Worldwide revenue from electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) sales is forecast to grow from $567 million annually in 2013 to $5.8 billion in 2022 according to market intelligence analyst, Navigant Research.

Navigant estimate that global sales of plug-in electric vehicles (PEVs) rose by more than 55 percent in 2013. The analyst expects the market to continue to grow at a steady pace during the next nine years. The expansion has led to solid growth in the market for electric vehicle charging equipment (better known in the industry as electric vehicle supply equipment, or EVSE).

“The market for EV charging has seen an imbalance between the relatively high number of available chargers and the number of vehicles on the road, but that ratio is moving toward equilibrium and in some markets, charging demand outstrips supply,” explained Lisa Jerram, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “The market has seen a wealth of offerings, including a wider range of EVSE at varying power levels and price points, and this diversity will help drive demand as consumers’ choices increase.”

Charging alternatives

Charging compatibility looks likely to be a key factor in how quickly the EV will take off. There are principally three competing de-facto standards for the charging plug: AC-Type 2 Mode 3, DC-CHAdeMO and DC-CCS. The introduction of trio chargers which are compatible with all three of the competing standards will boost the pace of EV take up. An impending shake-up of the AC charger market which currently dominates domestic installations may also have an impact.

At present most planned public charging sites look likely to offer charging via the new standardised Type 2-socket. The effects will vary from 1-phase 16 A (about 3.7 kW) to 3-phase 32 A (approx. 22 kW) AC. At some sites, which charge principally with DC according to the Japanese CHAdeMO standard or the European CCS standard, rapid charging stations will be introduced that can handle up to 50 kW. Standing out from the crowd Renault is opting for rapid charging via AC (alternating current).

In 2013 a compliance battle broke out between the companies responsible for the two types of charging machines. The Japanese-developed CHAdeMO standard, which is backed by Nissan, Mitsubishi, and Toyota, while the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) International J1772 Combo standard is backed by GM, Ford, Volkswagen, and BMW. Both are direct-current quick-charging systems designed to charge the battery of an electric vehicle to 80 percent in approximately 20 minutes. Of course both systems are incompatible. And rather like the wireless charging war we covered in Part 1 of this series which pits induction technology squarely against resonant wireless technology the competing EV charging solutions could adversely affect the momentum of the plug-in electric vehicle market.

The drag factor may play into the hands of another potential rival technology which ironically is wireless charging that is finally starting to move from the lab to the street.

Wireless charging – the long term solution?

Developed decades ago, wireless power transfer technology was a relatively low efficiency solution that has until now restricted its use to industrial settings such as powering up robotic vehicles and cranes. But wireless charging is starting to attract more interest from the EV market.

The wireless system relies on the well-known principle of electromagnetic induction. But technology innovation has pushed the energy-transfer efficiency of wireless chargers up to 90 per cent or higher.

Engineers John Boyes and Grant Covic at the University of Auckland in New Zealand worked out the optimal design for the shape of the coils to minimize energy losses. They also figured out how power can be transferred when the coils are misaligned – so it still functions even if you are terrible at parking. Two companies – newly formed IPT Technology GmbH of Efringen-Kirchen in Germany and Qualcomm Halo of London – have licensed the Auckland patents and are developing their own wireless charging variants.

In January 2014, the UK city of Milton Keynes launched a full-scale electric bus service that will be wirelessly charged using IPT’s pads which is running eight buses around a 24 km route with running from the city centre to Bletchley. The buses will run for five years in a carefully monitored programme to assess their technical and commercial viability. The eight electric buses aim to run 17 hours a day, seven days a week, with each bus covering over 56,000 miles per year.

Milton Keynes launched a full-scale electric bus service
that will be wirelessly charged using IPT’s pads

The IPT wireless charging technology has been used since 2002 in small buses in Genoa and Turin. Since 2012, the 2nd-generation modular, wireless charging system has also been used for a 12-meter bus in s’Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands. Although the European experience will be useful for IPT the real market for electric buses is in China, which market researcher IDTechEx forecasts will buy more than 80% of the world’s electric bus fleet in the future.

Despite the focus on public transport applications IPT has also successfully trialled a wirelessly charged Mercedes EV and is planning to expand production of its devices for consumer EVs.

Qualcomm Halo has been working on a variety of power transfer solutions developed to suit a broad range of vehicle types, from small urban commuters to high performance racing machines. The company has already developed the following:

  • 3.3 kW systems on vehicles including two Citroen C1 passenger cars that have been proven in the UK CABLED EV trial
  • 7 kW system on the Rolls Royce Phantom 102EX Experimental Electric Vehicle – designed to get feedback from Rolls Royce customers on luxury EVs
  • 20 kW system on the Lola-Drayson B12/69 EV Racing Car taking EV into the world of high performance motor sports at speeds of over 200 mph (320k mph)

Qualcomm Halo is also developing 3-kilowatt chargers for the Renault Fluence, a four-door family-size car. They are just 25 centimeters square and 2.2 cm deep, with road pads that are 75 cm square and 3.3 cm deep.

The company believes that trying to change user behavior will always be difficult and would lead to slower adoption rates. The company argues that EV charging must be simple and effortless.

Qualcomm Halo’s Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) solution, which operates at 85 kHz, means that drivers do not have to learn a new charging behaviour. They simply park normally and charge wirelessly.

Qualcomm Halo’s Wireless Electric Vehicle Charging (WEVC) solution

The advance in efficient, high power, inductive charging will change the way electric vehicles (EV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) are charged by the masses. A Base Charging Unit (BCU) on the floor of your garage, at a car park, or your office, or even buried under the road surface of a public charging bay, will connect to a Vehicle Charging Unit (VCU) on your EV/PHEV and charge the battery in a cable free manner.

Qualcomm Halo, claims the WEVC power transfer efficiency is comparable to plug in cabled charging systems, even with misalignment of the charging pads, is also pushing for drivers to charge while on the move, in dedicated WEVC dynamic charging lanes, which remove the need to stop and recharge their EV/PHEV on longer journeys. The company believes that dynamic charging will lead to a shift in charging behavior and potentially the end of range anxiety. Using WEVC drivers would look to charge little and often and use dynamic charging to complement local stationary charging.

Resonant magnetic induction can work at a range of frequencies in the Very Low Frequency or Low Frequency bands – typically below 300 kHz. However, this band is also used for other services such as keyless entry systems and smart grid control. The choice of frequency is therefore of critical because wireless charging need to coexist with other systems which exist both on the vehicle and within a sophisticated electromagnetic ecosystem. Agreeing on a single harmonized frequency is going to be essential is wireless charging equipment is to become interoperable and a viable option.

With many wireless charging systems alignment is critical to achieve charging, at decent levels of efficiency. The Qualcomm Halo WEVC system claims to be highly tolerant to misalignment (in both X-longitudinal and Y-latitudinal directions) and allows highly efficient power transfer at pragmatic levels of parking misalignment. It is also tolerant in the Z (vertical) direction and can compensate for the different road heights of vehicles.

Although contactless vehicle charging may ultimately become the dominant solution it has a long way to go and some pretty major obstacles to navigate around before it gains global dominance.

Most plug-in charging stations are currently funded on a non-economic basis by governments and electricity generating companies as part of ‘green’ initiatives. Will wireless vehicle charging, which will widen EV adoption but is arguably less energy efficient, be perceived as less ‘green’ by local and national government authorities? Funding could become an issue coupled with the inherent higher installation costs that involve digging up roads, car parks etc. Failure to agree on technical standards could also become an application crippler.

In 2020, more 3.6 million vehicle charging stations are forecast to be installed, contacted and contactless, residential and public. However, most of these are likely to be HEVs because they are most likely to outsell pure EV alternatives until ‘range’ becomes less of an issue in the minds of drivers worldwide.

Related articles and links:

News articles:

What technologies to watch for in 2014? – Part 1

Global EV charging equipment market to reach USD5.8bn in annual revenue by 2022

35 million electric vehicles to be on the roads worldwide by 2022, predicts Navigant Research

Electric vehicle charging equipment sales to reach 4.3m units worldwide in 2022, says Navigant

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