Six Technology Innovations in Electric Vehicle Charging
Increasing relief from range anxiety is one factor behind rapidly rising sales of electric vehicles. Two years ago, BloombergNEF predicted 400 million passenger EVs would be on the road by 2040. The most recent report revises that prediction upward to 700 million. New investments in EV charging infrastructure, lower EV prices, continuous improvements in vehicle range, and the flow of new EV models are also spurring this growth.
Meanwhile, the EV charging industry continues to innovate and attract new investment. While some innovations in the works will come to fruition in a matter of years, others are steadily improving the EV charging experience today.
Here are six technology innovations that are available now or in the near future:
Smart EV Charging
Smart EV charging delivers reliable, safe, renewable, and cost-effective energy to EVs while meeting the needs of drivers and local grids. It depends on sophisticated back-end software that captures data from EVs, networked chargers, and the grid. That data is used to optimize charging of EVs, integrate power from storage and renewable sources, and minimize impact on the grid. For buildings and fleets, site-level energy needs are also factored in. Advanced algorithms balance all these elements to dynamically distribute the lowest-cost energy when and where it’s needed without compromising either local energy needs or EV charging.
Self-Healing Algorithms for EV Charging Management
EV drivers are challenging EV charge point operators and e-mobility service providers to do a better job of managing charger availability and stability and deliver a seamless charging experience. Self-healing algorithms built into an EV charging management platform can fix up to 80% of the software-related operational issues that render EV chargers unusable by drivers. Real-time issue discovery and automated self-repair maximize chargers uptime and optimize EV owners’ charging experience.
The idea of using the energy stored in EV batteries for other purposes started with vehicle-to-grid (V2G). V2G envisions using smart EV charging to control a two-way flow of energy between EVs and the grid. Instead of generating more power during peak times, utilities would purchase stored energy from EV owners and distribute it over the grid. During non-peak times, the EVs would draw energy for recharging. V2X extends the idea to include different use cases and destinations for power drawn from EVs, such as vehicle-to-home (V2H), vehicle-to-building (V2B), vehicle-to-farm (V2F) and vehicle-to-load (V2L).
EV Battery Technology
No blog on EV technology innovations would be complete without touching on EV batteries. Efforts continue to find an alternative to today’s lithium-ion batteries that is lower cost, faster to charge, longer-lived, and does not depend on scarce minerals. New chemistries such as sodium-ion offer promise of incremental improvement. Innovators looking for significant gains are exploring solid state batteries and new form factors such as blades. What the industry needs is that big breakthrough technology shift. Will it be quantum batteries that can charge fully in three minutes?
Megawatt Charging System for Big Trucks
Current ultra-fast charging solutions — 250kW and, coming soon, 350-500kW DC fast chargers — are getting passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks or vans back on the road quickly. Depending on the car, you can add 60 miles of driving with five minutes of charging or get to 80% charged in 20 – 30 minutes.
Medium- and heavy-duty trucks need a lot more power. Following four years of development, the global EV standards non-profit CharIN has launched a standards-based Megawatt Charging System fast-charging connector for heavy-duty vehicles. It’s designed for DC charging of up to 3,750kW, so trucks can add about 200 miles range in a half-hour charging session. That gets electric trucks close to the 500-mile range needed for a single run.
Smart Battery Management
EV batteries consist of thousands of cells, which are grouped into modules, which are connected so they act as one battery. When enough cells degrade to the point where the battery is no longer useful for powering electric vehicles, smart battery management technology can give those batteries a second life. They can be “racked and stacked” so that multiple EV batteries can act as one very large battery that can be used for local storage of energy from the grid or from renewable sources. The technology that makes this possible combines software, sensors, and hardware to correct for non-functioning cells, optimize charging, and communicate with smart EV charging and energy management software. In this way, energy from renewables can be captured when conditions are good, stored, and integrated back into the local grid or the local EV charging infrastructure.
Smarter, faster, lower cost, and green. That’s what consumers and business customers are looking for in EV technology advances, whether it’s charging and energy management or batteries and vehicles themselves. Given the growing number of EV industry patent filings, we can rest assured that the innovators are hard at work.