An electric motor is energy efficient and emissions free. If all of Sweden’s 4.5 million vehicles were electric, it would suffice with 600 wind turbines to supply them with fuel. Sounds like a perfect business concept, but despite that electric cars have been around since the car’s childhood but competition from gasoline and diesel has always been harsh. Practical circumstances like, price, battery capacity and recharging infrastructure, are still challenges to overcome before electric cars seriously be able to compete with the fossil fuels.

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However, it is not uncommon that developments take unexpected rapid strides. Concerns about climate change, combined with the realization that abundant fossil oil is a transitory phenomenon, has resulted in an increased interest in electric cars. Much has happened in the recent past and today’s electric car has a range of 150 – 200 kilometers, something that will surely increase. ABB contributes to the electric car’s development by making it easy and accessible to recharge the car’s batteries.

Fast charging of electric cars

“Our charging stations suit all types of electric vehicles,” says Jenny Miltell , Product Manager at ABB. “As early as the autumn of 2008, we initiated, together with Volvo and Vattenfall, a development project for charging stations and the infrastructure for loading, which led up to that today we have a broad portfolio of charging stations.”

“ABB currently has about 1,200 fast charging stations that are connected via the Internet. This allows us to directly detect whether any station is out of service and in most cases we can fix the problem remotely. Our stations are additionally prepared to be part of the smart grid, are robust and quiet. The motorist sees the stations like a regular gas station with a fairly normal hose for fuel. Depending on the battery and the vehicle, it takes about 20 minutes to charge the battery and normally gives a mileage of around 100 km. As the batteries develop, charging and long journeys will be a fairly straightforward part of everyday life.”

Battery charging in practice

For the average car owner, charging of electric cars is probably not an area to easily understand. Currently, this is how it works in practice:ingen soppatorsk

  • Slow and semi-fast charging
    As for AC charging of cars it is often said that it is slow or semi-fast. At slow charge, it takes about eight hours to fully charge a battery with a standard single-phase power outlet at 10-16A, which has a power output of up to 3.7 kW. Semi-fast charging makes use of three-phase sockets or higher amperage to charge a car in between 1-4 hours, and the maximum power is then 22 kW.
  • Smart Charging Stations
    Smart Charging stations have AC cables with 16 amps at 230 volts and the charging posts have a fixed cable to the car. One hour of charging gives a few kilometers of driving and the stations are connected and remotely controlled so that they can be upgraded and maintained remotely. Further, they can be connected to different types of payment and back office systems.
  • Quick Charging Stations
    Fast charging stations utilizing DC charging of the CHAdeMO or CCS standard, where the conversion from grid AC to DC car battery is made at the charging station. The system utilizes the effects of 20 kW to 100 kW (up to 50 kW in Sweden) and normally it takes 15-60 minutes to charge an empty battery. ABB’s stations are connected and remote controlled, which means that they can be upgraded, maintained and connected to different types of payment and back office systems. This type of charger is placed at fast food outlets, shopping malls and along the highway. One can do one’s errands while the car charges.
  • Common standard
    The energy industry and vehicle manufacturers have recently agreed on a common European standard for charging electric vehicles. From 2017, all charging stations in public spaces will have fixed cables with a Type 2 connector, and be connected to the Internet. These chargers are to be equipped with CCS outlet.

Green Highway connects Sweden and Norway

Green Highway is an interesting collaboration between Sundsvall, Östersund and Trondheim. Along with utilities and other stakeholders these cities want to create a fossil fuel-free transport corridor between Sweden and Norway. The project, with a budget of EUR 120 million, is supported by the European Union through the Interreg that recently conducted evaluations between the years 2007 – 2013. Out of 115 projects Green Highway received the highest score according to the criteria included in the valuation model. Engaged politicians, good cooperation between the countries and focus on networking was highly valued. Part of the project aims to realize the idea that it should be easier to charge electric cars than to refuel them with fossil fuels.

The Green Highway tested different types of fuels, vehicles and technologies. “Two holes in the wall” is probably not the final solution to the energy supply and the intelligent charging stations for electric cars are an important part of the puzzle.

“ABB is one of the actors in the Green Highway project, but we are of course working globally with a portfolio for charging electric vehicles,” says Jenny Miltell . “We offer web-connected fast charging systems for AC and DC power and have developed tools to address issues of management, statistics, and back office. Consumer needs are of course important and sometimes a quick charge of 15-30 mins is absolutely necessary, but under normal circumstances it may be perfectly acceptable to charge the car at the office or at home during the night.”

“There are a variety of scenarios for electric cars. In a city with 500 electric vehicles, for example, 150 AC (alternating current) charging stations may be a solution. In the same city, five fast chargers at the city limits, 30 combined AC/DC stations at 20 kW at various malls and “100 AC wall -box” at the municipal office, may be another solution. The possibilities are many and the solutions depend on the interplay between functionality and economy,” concludes Miltzell.

This article was published in May 2014