The Latest Innovation in EV Chargers and Charger Networks

Infrastructure and improvements in equipment are looking very promising for the growth and viability of the EV market. The faster charges can occur at more places along freeways and highways, the greater the distances EVs could cover.

The primary advantage that internal combustion engines have over electric vehicles is the ease with which drivers can top off the gas tank and continue traveling. Unless you cannot find an open gas station, the only delay is how long you might have to wait behind another driver to top off a fuel tank. A properly maintained and gasoline-fueled motor can run for a very long time.

Thus far, the potential to drive farther in a day than a charged battery will enable an EV to go is limited. Many EV batteries take about 11 hours to obtain a full charge from an at-home charging station. Until that time is lowered, it is difficult to travel much farther than you could on a single charge.

Many EVs offer quick-charge solutions that will power up a battery enough to get your home. It takes about ten minutes to obtain a charge that will provide about 75 miles of additional driving range. So the ability to take an EV out on the road for several days at a time mostly does not exist — unless you have a map of charging locations that will top you off in 11 hours so that you can drive for another six or so hours.

GM Partners With EVgo To Build More Charging Stations

General Motors is among the many automakers who recognize the future of mass transit is here in EVs. GM has many brands that are producing popular EVs of virtually all types. Like all automakers, it needs the proper infrastructure to make it all work.

In the early days of motorized transportation, you could mostly go as far as the local roads would enable. Beyond that required a horse. As road infrastructure expanded, the need for gas stations grew. That was especially true after the construction of the interstate highway system in the 1950s — and more gas stations made it all happen.

GM and other carmakers want something similar to happen with EV charging stations and are putting their money where the corporate mouth is and funding the expansion of EV stations across the nation. We already have the road system — we just need fast-charging systems at existing gas stations and truck stops to enable EVs to go from coast to coast.

GM is partnering with EVgo to build 3,250 fast-charging DC stalls in 52 metropolitan areas across the nation. EVgo is among the largest charging networks in the United States and already has more than 2,000 charging sites either planned or under construction.

The partnership with GM will enable EVgo to accelerate its plans to build thousands of charging stations across the nation. That kind of infrastructure growth from just one of many providers of EV charging stations should enable the nation to grow its EV-enabling infrastructure much more quickly.

The massive growth is mostly privately funded, but local incentives can help promote more development. Many states are encouraging the construction of EV charging stations with tax incentives and lower energy costs to help make them more viable.

Faster Charging Capability

DC fast-charging is one of three ways in which EVs currently can replenish their power supplies. It also is the fastest way to recharge an EV. The auto industry recognized DC fast-charging as the best current method of enabling long-distance travel with EVs.

When recharging, each kilowatt of power is good for about three miles of travel for every hour of charging. So the faster that a charger can deliver kilowatts to the battery, the faster it recharges. A level 1 charger is too slow for fast charges. But level 2 and especially level 3 charging systems could make EVs much more driver-friendly when it comes to topping off batteries.

While at home, a 120-volt outlet in a typical household will produce about 1.3 kW to 2.4 kW per hour of charging power. That equals between four and six miles of driving range per hour while charging your EV at home.

If your EV’s battery normally holds enough power for about 250 miles of driving range, a nightly charge at home will gain about 50 miles per night. If the battery is completely empty, it will take two days of charging to top it off. Those charging rates are very slow and only work for people who have short drives to and from work.

The next level of charging uses a 240-volt outlet that can produce up to 54 miles of driving range per hour of charging in that same battery. A level 2 charging system can top off an empty battery in less than five hours at the highest output rate.

Many level-2 charging systems are in place at work sites, parking garages and shopping malls. You also could install one in your home to give you more driving range than a standard wall outlet.

The DC fast-charging system ramps it up even more and can provide a charge equal to about 80 percent of a battery’s capacity in as little as 15 minutes. Slower recharging speeds could take nearly an hour to mostly top off a battery.

With nearly full charges available in a fraction of an hour, the potential for long-distance driving in EVs is much more viable. With some planned stops for food and a brief break from the road every couple of hundred miles of travel, the potential charging speeds of DC fast-charging systems make EVs even more attractive to potential buyers.

Thinner Recharging Cables Could Enable Faster Charges

Size generally matters in how fast a charging system could deliver power to your EV battery. A good rule of thumb has been bigger, bulkier and heavier charging cables have enabled faster charging. But that can be a literal pain while on the road.

Ford is partnering with Purdue University to create thinner, lighter and better charging cables for the EV market. The goal is to produce a cable that works with a DC fast-charging system to top off an EV battery in about the same time it would take to fill up a fuel tank. If they succeed, the impact on the EV market could be very substantial.

A patent-pending cooling design would use a liquid cooling system to remove more heat from the charging cable. The more heat removed, the faster the cable could enable full charges of nearly empty EV batteries. Ford and Purdue researchers say better cooling is the essential element in creating the kind of recharging speeds it would take to top off an EV battery in about the same time that it would take to top off a gas tank.

At least two more years of testing will go into developing the lighter, thinner and cooler DC fast-charging cable. But when produced and patented, it could help to make long-distance travel much more viable and affordable with EVs.

Wireless Inductive Charging Might Change the EV Industry

While DC fast-charging systems and cooler cables are unlocking the potential for rapid recharging while on the go, another method might dispense with wired charging altogether. Wireless charging technology is in the works that could make it possible to recharge an EV battery without plugging it into a charger or electrical outlet.

Wireless charging of EV batteries is similar to the wireless charging of cell phones. The EVs would use an inductive system and require an additional charger added to the vehicle to enable wired and wireless charging systems.

Current wireless charging occurs at about a level 2 efficiency rate, which can top off a battery in about five hours. A study recently commissioned by WiTricity says that the same level of performance is capable with wireless inductive charging. It also says viable systems might be ready for the EV market in less than two years.

With the many advancements in wired and the potential for wireless technologies, EV charging could soon become a nonissue with potential buyers of new cars. As the charging infrastructure continues to grow with the help of some of the world’s largest car builders, the viability of EVs for just about anyone is just around the corner.


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