Collaboration – a powerful enabler of innovation

ABB FIA Formula E Championship 1024x683
94 WARLHEIN Pascal (ger), Mahindra M5Electro team Mahindra racing, action DAMBROSIO Jerome (bel), Mahindra M5Electro team Mahindra racing, portrait during the 2019 Formula E championship, at Marrakech in Morocco, from january 11 to 12 – Photo: Germain Hazard / DPPI

The growth in the electric vehicle (EV) market is undoubtedly gaining pace, with some commentators predicting that there will be 559 million EVs on the road by 2040 and 55% of all new car sales and 33% of the global fleet will be electric*.

While we are still away from hitting these ambitious figures, we are seeing good progress towards creating a more sustainable transport solution.

ABB is witnessing surging demand for public and private EV charging solutions, having sold more than 10,500 DC fast chargers across 73 countries. We are also supporting stakeholders across the globe to establish electric bus services to reduce our impact on the environment.

If we are to deliver this clear vision for a sustainable, emission-free future, we need to continually innovate and develop new solutions to satisfy this increasing demand.

We have a strong Research & Development (R&D) culture, that is continually advancing pioneering technologies in the field of electric mobility. We were one of the founders of both the CHAdeMO and CCS alliance charging standards, we launched our first DC fast charger in 2010, the first nationwide DC charging networks in 2012 and the first eBus charging networks in Europe in 2016.

We believe there are three key disruptions aligned to the delivery of sustainable transportation for the future.

Firstly, we need to see continued investment in the sector, both in the development of battery technology by vehicle Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to enable greater range and cost efficiencies, but critically in the development of a widespread charging infrastructure network to satisfy growing demand.

In many markets, the current reality paints a different picture. When we look at the United States for example, while 200,000 EVs were sold in 2017, the country’s charging infrastructure is still ‘lagging behind’, with consumers lacking confidence and ‘range anxiety’ being a major barrier to electric vehicle adoption. In response, we are proud to be collaborating with Electrify America to create the largest network of fast charging stations the country has seen.

Secondly, we must focus on standardization and operability. The automotive industry only needs to look at the electric public transport sector to see that adoption rates are significantly increased as the number of charging standards decrease. If we want to create positive change for the future, now is the time to replicate this for passenger vehicles, which will need a truly collaborative approach.

ABB Puts The Charge Into Worlds First 12 Metre Fully Electric Autonomous Bus 1024x768
ABB puts the charge into the worlds first 12 metre fully autonomous bus

Thirdly, we need to accept that we have to evolve our energy ecosystem to enable an emission-free future. A reliable power infrastructure with low maintenance costs is key for modern cities to address peaks in demand effectively. That’s why enabling safe, flexible and smart electrical networks is of crucial importance.

The integration of energy resources, the installation of smarter home technologies linked to private EV charging and the adoption of EVs with expanded battery capabilities, could in the future turn homes around the world into self-sufficient grids. Car batteries could be used to not only store energy, but that energy could also be sold back to the grid, enabling residential and commercial communities to become active participants in the energy revolution.

Future Proofing with High-power Charging Solutions

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ABB Terra HP Dynamic DC

Currently, the pace of change, both in commercial and consumer markets, is being driven by the need for faster and higher power charging. The sector is however faced by one key challenge, the capacity of current EV batteries.

At the moment, DC charging is still too powerful for most consumer vehicles, but all that may be about to change with the launch of the first consumer car capable of taking this power, the Porsche Taycan, later this year.

While current EV batteries don’t have the capacity to store the level of charge available from a high-power charger, technology like our Terra HP charger, serve as a future proof solution which will support the development of next generation of EVs. Capable of delivering 350Kw of power, it can add 200 km of range to an EV in a time frame not much longer than refuelling a traditional gas engine vehicle (8 minutes).

Meanwhile, for buses and trucks, the industry is currently limited to a maximum charge of 600kW. We are confident that there is potential for evolution here too, with 1MW charging on the horizon. Our $10million investment in a new R&D Center, due to launch this June, includes facilities for expanding our capabilities in the rapidly expanding eBus segment and will see us continuing to evolve pioneering solutions in this field.

The Power of Collaboration

Hand in hand with technological progress, comes the need for greater collaboration, which is a powerful enabler of innovation within the EV field. Working with other high-profile players allows us to push the boundaries of technology and develop new solutions.

With the sector evolving at such a rapid rate, this need for collaboration is greater than ever. We continue to work closely with OEMs and charge point operators to ensure technology not only meets but exceeds current needs to facilitate future growth.

For example, ABB in conjunction with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the Land Transport Authority and Volvo Buses, has just launched the world’s first 12-metre fully electric autonomous passenger bus in Singapore. This flagship project aims to prove that it is possible to provide fixed route and scheduled services powered by emission-free vehicles and demonstrates the fantastic advances which can be made in public transportation when these two pioneering technologies come together.

Driving Innovation

Taking the art of the possible one step further, we need to continually push the boundaries of what e-mobility technology can deliver. The ABB FIA Formula E Championship series is a fantastic example. It provides a powerful platform to test mobility electrification and digitalization technologies, while showcasing the potential to a much wider audience.

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jaguar i-Pace eTrophy charger during the 2019 Formula E championship, from fevrier 14 to 16, 2019 in Mexico, Mexique – Photo Francois Flamand / DPPI

Latest Formula E cars are now capable of doing 0 to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds with a maximum speed of 280 km/h, thanks largely to significant gains in battery efficiency. The battery fitted to the new Gen2 racecars is heavier than the unit used in its predecessors, which raced during the first four seasons of ABB Formula E, but it has almost double the energy capacity. For a weight gain of 65kgs (to 385kgs from 320), capacity has increased to 54 kWh, from 28 – a 95 per cent increase in capacity for a 20 per cent weight gain. This rate of progress now allows Gen2 cars to complete a full 45-minute race distance on a single charge.

This technological evolution is also becoming a reality in mainstream vehicles. For example, the Jaguar I-PACE eTROPHY series features racing versions of the same Jaguar I-PACE electric SUVs that are now sold to consumers, using everyday charging stations.

To achieve this required lateral thinking by our technology experts, who developed a solution that would quickly recharge batteries of up to 20 I-PACE eTROPHY race cars during breaks between practice, qualifying and races in 10 different cities on four continents during the season.

The most obvious solution was a DC fast charger. However, these chargers, which are designed for public use are 2.2 meters tall making them way too big to fit into the cargo holds of jetliners that transport the series’ racers and equipment around the world.

Working collaboratively, a solution was developed that repackaged the functionality of a DC fast charger into a package on wheels, with a profile only 1.5 meters high.

Another powerful example of how, collaboratively, we can meet the big challenges that e-mobility presents with innovative engineering.

The future for e-mobility technology

The market is full of opportunities for players across multi disciplines, ranging from the development of next generation vehicles and supporting components to charging technology providers, charging operators, utilities and players in the renewables sector.

We are seeing bold moves by companies, including some of the main energy providers and OEMs, who are diversifying their portfolio to allow them to impact new parts of the value chain, particularly in the operation of charging stations.

In Europe for example, one of our key customers, IONITY is a joint venture between BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche, which aims to operate a network of about 400 fast charging stations across 24 European countries, by 2020.

Ultimately it is this collaborative approach and continual investment in new technology that will shape the future of e-mobility for generations to come.

Penned by Frank Muehlon, Head of ABB’s global EV Charging Infrastructure business

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