Speed up the process – the rise of fast charging

The emergence of high-power charging and greater presence of fast chargers will change EV driver behaviour, says CHAdeMO’s Secretary General Dave Makoto Yoshida. By Xavier Boucherat

With electric vehicles expected to penetrate markets in greater volumes over the next decade, attention is now being turned to charging infrastructures. Home charging and long-term parking-space charge points over long-periods could provide a good solution for those driving a short-to-mid distance regular commute, whilst keeping the load on power infrastructure to a minimum.

But what about those who want the flexibility of an internal combustion engine (ICE), capable of driving long distances and making spontaneous trips? And what about environmentally conscious customers who lack the garage or driveway needed to safely charge a vehicle at home?

Dave Makoto Yoshida is the Secretary General of CHAdeMO, an e-mobility collaboration platform that works to develop the CHAdeMO DC fast charging protocol, ensuring compatibility with EVs, and promoting fast chargers. The group was originally formed in Japan, a joint enterprise between the country’s major OEMs and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco).

A large part of the Japanese population resides in collective buildings, and have difficulty charging at home. As such, the need for charging en route to a destination is higher when compared to other markets

As Yoshida explains, Japan’s dense population and crowded urban environments meant range anxiety was of particular concern to would-be passengers. “A large part of the Japanese population resides in collective buildings, and have difficulty charging at home,” he explains. “As such, the need for charging en route to a destination is higher when compared to other markets.” Built-up urban areas all over the world now face the same problem, particularly as urban migration continues.

Fast charging therefore offers the potential for so-called destination charging, and the fast charger market has subsequently expanded. CHAdeMO-approved chargers have gone worldwide – in 2016, publicly-available CHAdeMO charge point installations exceeded 13,500 units worldwide, up by 35% year-on-year. At the time of writing (October 2017), CHAdeMO reported 16,500 charge points globally, including 7,100 in Japan, 5,000 in Europe, 2,300 in North America and 2,000 in Asia. Excluding China, the technology is compatible with over half of the global EV market. Whilst the company admits that correlation does not mean causation, it points to a clear relationship between the number of fast chargers installed, and the number of EVs sold.

Yoshida admits there is now a risk that greater numbers of EVs could arrive on the roads quicker than stations and charging spots can be built. Issues have already been reported in Norway, an advanced EV market, and have led to the rise of ‘queuing anxiety’. As costs drop however, redundancy at charging stations will increase, says Yoshida, easing fears among drivers.

Some, such as fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) advocates, have argued that even with fast charging solutions, destination charging would still present waiting times unacceptable to most customers. FCEVs, by contrast, can be refuelled in times comparable with conventional ICE vehicles.

Yoshida believes that EVs and FCEVs should develop together, with both having complimentary advantages. “FCEVs are suited for long-range driving because of their high storage capacity,” he says, “while EVs are far easier to charge. Realistically, given the status of costs associated with FCEVs, we expect them and their infrastructure deployment to be further out in terms of deadline.”

Increased power

Increasing battery capacity presents a new challenge for the fast charging market, because as CHAdeMO points out, what is considered fast charging for 16-24kWh batteries may not prove so effective for 60 kWh batteries. In response, the company is preparing to deploy its next-generation high-power 200kW chargers.

The roll out of these will be slow, says Yoshida. “High battery capacity EVs will be pricey, which will limit their initial number on the roads,” he says. “Therefore we expect high-power charge stations to be specifically for pathway charging, and only on strategic locations along core motorways.”

High battery capacity EVs will be pricey, which will limit their initial number on the roads. Therefore we expect high-power charge stations to be specifically for pathway charging, and only on strategic locations along core motorways

The company will therefore be carefully watching the speed and scale of market take-up in the segment. The cost of installation and maintenance of fast chargers means they will by no means supplant standard charger models. In some cases, there is simply no need for them – an office car-parking space, for example, where a vehicle might sit all day, could be adequately charged through standard means.

In addition, ‘slow chargers’ may actually make economic sense to some charging service providers. “Some will intentionally choose slower chargers,” he says, “such as at large shopping centres where business owners want customers to spend as much time as possible on the premises. We observe a trend in Japan of installing semi-fast DC chargers at commercial facilities, which work at around 20kW and cost much less both in terms of operation and installation.”

Changing behaviours

The increase in battery capacity is good news for OEMs in terms of increasing range and addressing the concerns of potential customers, but the subsequent arrival of high-power charging will also transform EV driver behaviours, says Yoshida. “We will certainly need high-power charging to charge a battery from zero to full,” he says, “but bigger batteries mean extended autonomy, which in turn means that EV drivers may only need a small top-up at a charge point – just enough to get to the next one.”

Some [providers] will intentionally choose slower chargers, such as at large shopping centres where business owners want customers to spend as much time as possible on the premises. We observe a trend in Japan of installing semi-fast DC chargers at commercial facilities, which work at around 20kW

Diversification of charging behaviours means that for now, many chargers will continue to come with both AC and DC inlets. From a user’s point of view, he says, this makes sense. Electrification will take place across all kinds of vehicles – from small commuter cars to large SUVs – and it is unlikely that all vehicles will require high-power charging capability.

Over the longer term, primary charging at home or at places of work could become wireless, and plug-in chargers will be used for destination charging only. “When this day comes,” he says, “having to deal with a large connector with both AC and DC attached will be more cumbersome than convenient.” And looking further ahead, Yoshida concludes that in several years’ time, it is possible that inductive charging will become broadly used.

This article appeared in the Q4 2017 issue of Automotive Megatrends Magazine. 

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