The #EVroadtrip. Turns out, you can travel through Europe in an electric car
What Solar Impulse has done in the air, we were doing on the ground. With a car. An electric one, of course.
Not so long ago, it was impossible to think that a solar-powered airplane could travel during the day and night. Now, the Solar Impulse has flown across two of the world’s great oceans without using a drop of fuel. There’s no better example to show how the newest, most advanced technology is making a difference in the air.
But what about on the ground?
Some people are really passionate about cars: the handling, the suspension, how they corner – it’s all about the precision and the pure joy that is associated with driving great automobiles.
But what if there was a car that can do all this stuff and not pollute the environment? What if it had a great suspension, an impressive acceleration, responsive handling and an eye-catching, elegant design? In case you didn’t know, there are a couple of them. And we had a distinct pleasure of driving one from the ABB Zaragoza factory in Spain to ABB Germany’s headquarters in Mannheim, Germany. Over the course of the journey, we showed that you actually can travel across six countries with an electric car and have just as much fun as you would with a petrol automobile. What’s even more important, though, is that you don’t pollute the air in the meantime.
So, how can it be done?
When driving an electric car (not a hybrid!), you have to plan your journey accordingly. You don’t use gas stations; you look for the chargers. Compared to conventional vehicles, the zero-emission ones don’t have the same infrastructure. And they definitely should, as transportation is responsible for around a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions across the European Union. The exhaust fumes continue to send thick smog and fine particle pollution into the atmosphere. At ABB, we believe our transport technology will help to reduce CO2 emissions.
This is why we are focusing on helping countries and cities to develop internet-based EV charging infrastructures, which supports all EV charging standards. During the whole trip, we parked and charged the car at various locations with ABB chargers. All chargers can be combined with comprehensive solutions for user authorization, payment, and network connectivity – therefore allowing for customization.
It’s about a clean future for all
Starting in Sevilla, the #EVroadtrip team met the Solar Impulse crew.
Then, we made it to Extresol solar plant, which provides clean energy for 60,000 homes avoiding 298,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions. ABB was responsible for the design, engineering, erection, civil works and commissioning of the plant.
The next stop was in Madrid, where we were able to charge the car by the end of day two. The team then headed to Zaragoza, where ABB produces dry type transformers. In fact, the factory was the first in the world to successfully install a dry type transformer with an insulation level of 52 kV.
On to Barcelona, where we visited ABB’s Wind Retrofit Center of Excellence. By our estimations, there are 30,000 old turbines in the world that have no power electronics and their warranty periods have expired.
Current turbines have power electronics and variable speed drives, such as wind converters from ABB, which allow to adapt the rotational speed of the turbine to the wind conditions. This allows them to reduce stress on the mechanical drive train and simultaneously achieve maximum energy transfer
The main goal of this stop was to highlight two possible solutions for the older turbines – repowering or retrofitting. We can either replace outdated products with new ones or renew electrical and mechanical components of the existing ones.
In Sant Quirze del Valles in Barcelona, the ABB Wind Retrofit Center of Excellence, the company proposes a solution consisting of integrating a frequency converter and the renewal process mentioned above.
In Marseille, ABB focuses on the marine industry and equipping our customers’ vessels with integrated solutions for optimal reliability, flexibility and energy efficiency. From powering the largest, emission-free electric ferries to producing Azipod propulsion systems for 25 years, ABB focuses on decreasing the environmental impact.
ABB’s newest invention is a shore connection robot, combining our strong tradition in robotics with the maritime technology. It will be the world’s first shore side robotic charging arm when it is installed for HH Ferries on the route between Helsingør and Helsingborg.
Monaco and Solar Impulse
By the evening, the #EVroadtrip team reached the Solar Impulse Mission Control Center, where all key flight data is being merged via satellite communication links. We had a chance to learn about how the team analyzes meteorological information, how it’s calculating the flight paths, and when it’s adjusting to changing conditions. In a journey of 40,000 kilometers, great support is the most important.
In fact, the whole concept of our #EVroadtrip was based on Solar Impulse’s mission. What they’re doing in the air, we were achieving on the ground. While the plane flew over Europe – we traveled to Genova.
There are four ABB locations in Italy. We reached the first one, Genova, after a 2-hour drive from Monaco. The Symphony Plus solutions that are showcased there are all about plant automation for the power and water industries. After thirty years, the Symphony family is enhancing its capabilities with each new generation and has 6,500 installations around the world.
After recharging at the Terra 53 station, the team moved on to solar campus in Bellosguardo, which houses the children of ABB employees for summer camps – and that’s where we experienced the most joyful welcome possible.
Another stop for us was the ABB Smart Lab in Dalmine, where ABB simulates and studies the behavior of components in low and medium voltage intelligent networks. Then, we reached the ABB Italy headquarters in Sesto San Giovanni, Milan. All of the locations mentioned above are equipped with the charging stations for electric vehicles.
The next morning, we left for the Gotthard Pass
After crossing the Swiss border, we reached the Gotthard mountains, the place of another historic milestone for Switzerland and ABB. The Gotthard Base Tunnel is the longest and deepest in the world, and ABB is immensely proud of taking part in making that happen.
Along the way, it was hard not to gaze at the beauty of the snowy mountains and green valleys. When we reached the top, though, the temperature dropped significantly; after all, we were at a much higher altitude of 2108 meters above the sea level.
Switzerland welcomed us with English-type weather, but that didn’t stop our need for exploring ABB’s activities. In Baden, we visited our offices and, thanks to Gioia Lenggenhager, we had a chance to see Villa Boveri, the house of Walter Boveri, co-founder of Brown Boveri & Cie.
Not only is the building worth the attention; there’s also a picturesque, beautifully preserved neo-baroque garden containing the sculptured works by Hildebrand, Georgii, Breton, and more.
After a short break, we moved on to Turgi and Lenzburg
The image above was taken in a factory for traction converters in Turgi, where the #EVroadtrip team had a distinct pleasure of meeting Harald Hepp and Thomas Siegenthaler. The factory’s main task is to focus on the backbone of rail vehicles. Eco-friendly rail vehicles.
Behind the car, you’ll see the newest drive system for trains – its main highlight is to take advantage of the regenerative braking technology. To put it in simple terms: when a train brakes, it gains power, so that it doesn’t have to use the current.
The factory employs about 1,000 people providing various solutions for electrified transportation. And since it allocated more resources into research and development, the sales doubled.
Creating such machinery requires not only top-line engineering teams but also cooperation. That’s why, before we reached Turgi, we visited a semiconductors factory in Lenzburg. After a warm welcome we learned about things far beyond our imagination.
Lenzburg is where the magic happens – where grains of sand are developed into semiconductors. The 24-hour facility has two production lines with a combined output of around 225,000 silicon wafers per annum, which are then supplied to the power electronics industry.
Mannheim. The last stop
The #EVroadtrip ended at the German headquarters. Overall, we drove for 4,000 kilometers – turns out, you actually can travel through Europe with minimum impact on the environment.