January 21, 2010 – Vol.14 No.44
HIGH VOLTAGE CHARGING = FASTER ELECTRIC VEHICLE ADOPTION.
by Bruce Mulliken, Green Energy News
First a cautionary note: Electricity can kill instantly. The handling of any electrical device requires extreme care. Never let your guard down around flowing electrons.
Now let me soften things up a bit. Electricity should be respected, not feared. The reason I say this is that there’s a new ability out there that could accelerate the mass deployment of electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars: High-voltage charging. Respecting, not fearing high voltage electricity, as well as putting some faith in charging station developers to make their equipment safe, could help bring clean, emission-free electric vehicles to the mainstream sooner than later.
Charging at 480 volts instead of 110 or 220 volts will reduce charging times from as long as overnight to less than an hour, perhaps as little as 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is only slightly longer than it takes to fill up a tank with gasoline or diesel fuel. Fifteen minutes is time to grab a cuppa, make a call or two or send a text message while safely parked watching the battery level meter rise.
Long charging times have been one of the hurdles to the mass commercialization, public acceptance and the adoption of electric vehicles. High-voltage charging would remove at least that one hurdle.
High-voltage, 480-volt charging, couldn’t be done in the home, of course. It’s safe to say most US homes have no more than 220 volts at the panel box and really old homes have even less. That’s OK, though; home charging is expected to be overnight while we sleep and time is not of the essence.
Aside being nearly equivalent in “fueling” time with liquid fuels, high-voltage charging would add at least two new dimensions to the scope of electric vehicle marketization.
1) High-voltage charging would create new business opportunities for liquid fuel filling station owners. A high voltage electric charging station at the local gas station (away from the pumps, please!) would be a new revenue producer. Enough said.
2) High-voltage charging would create the opportunity for electric vehicle charging in urban areas that don’t have off-street parking or privately-owned parking spots and garages. In other words, it gives EV owners who don’t have their own parking spots a place to charge up quickly. Older cities, built before the age of cars, generally don’t have off-street parking. Home owners and renters park wherever they can on the street, sometimes blocks away from their own homes. (Way too far for a long extension cord.) It’s unlikely that any city could afford to install significant numbers of charging stations any time soon. But there are neighborhood gas stations, which could offer fee-paid, quick, high-voltage charging along with good coffee and a wi-fi connection.
If there’s a hurdle to high-voltage charging it’s the public’s fear of high volts. In the US people are comfortable with the 110 volts available from a standard wall outlet. (They should be more cautious than they are, however.) But people here in the US are less comfortable with 220 volts, giving more care to that voltage. If they’re fearful of 220 volts, will they be really fearful of 480? Probably, at first.
And, much of the world has 220 volt line voltage at wall outlets. What will the rest of world think of 480?
Coulomb Technologies and Aker Wade Power Technologies will be offering 480 Volt charging equipment later this year. As Aker Wade Power Technologies CEO Bret Aker said, “Field studies in Tokyo have shown that deploying fast chargers increase vehicle usage by more than 50 percent. And this is with first generation battery electric vehicles that were yet to be optimized for fast charging.With coming improvements in Li-ion technology charge times will be reduced to as little as fifteen minutes. This is the point where consumers will abandon gasoline for electricity. This is the tipping point for electric vehicles.”
Maybe not the only tipping point, but a major one. The other tipping point is the cost of the batteries that drive up the price of electric vehicles. On that road we’re still a few miles away.
Aker Wade Power Technologies
Copyright 1996 - 2010 Green Energy News Inc.