Smart, streamlined and safe – electric vehicle technologies are game changers

What can we learn from the countries leading the way when it comes to accelerating EV adoption in Australia?

When it comes to electric vehicles, most of the world is way ahead of Australia. If you consider that 60% of the market for new vehicles in the Netherlands is electric, versus less than 1% in Australia, you can immediately see the very big difference. What that does mean is that the world’s learnings are excellent reference points for Australia’s continued adoption – whether for governments seeking to move to e-public transport, or organisations shifting to efleets, or consumers considering personal electric vehicles.

ABB is proud to be a market leader in what we do, and bringing international best practices to Australia is part of how we are supporting a leap forward in electric vehicle take-up. Among the multitude of new technologies in this arena, key solutions are driving three game-changing areas of value – living smart, being streamlined and thriving safe.

Living smart

A central way that electric vehicles make living smart possible is how they are fundamentally changing refuelling. We talk about it as ‘decentralising’ fuelling. Internal combustion engine vehicles require the user to adjust their lifestyle to the fuel station. You plan for it, you drive there, you accept the significant changes in pricing from week to week and even day to day. You are second…fuel is first. Furthermore, with less than two weeks of fuel held in-country, our local market is at the mercy of oil companies, fluctuating prices and influence from overseas markets.

Electric vehicles completely turn that on its head. Their charging regimes are designed to fit your lifestyle, not the other way around. It takes a complete mindset shift to grasp the incredible convenience this means for individuals and organisations. Where the vast majority of petrol and diesel vehicles are refuelled on the ‘corridor’ (i.e. at stations on our roadways), electric vehicles are shaping up to reduce that by around 95%. The recharging landscape is far more like 5% roadway; 15% public spaces, such as shops; 30% workplaces; and 50% residential.

The dramatic expansion in charging infrastructure is key to making this possible, including opening up a major area of opportunity in the form of public charging. Today, ABB’s portfolio alone spans 7.5-22kW AC solutions for trickle charging, through to 24-350kW DC solutions for rapid, fast and high-power charging. This supports everything from overnight charging opportunities, multi-hour day charging (typically 1-3 hours) and fast to ultra-fast charging achieving significant range boosts in as little as 20 minutes or less. With DC charging, whether you’re looking at a 24kW solution or a 150kW solution, you can charge as much as 80% of a 40kW battery in 20-80 minutes – adding anywhere from 180-290km of range. For example, ABB’s 24kW DC wallbox – an excellent choice for public and commercial car charging – can deliver up to 180km of range per hour of charging. The 50kW Terra 54 boosts that to a serious 290km of range per hour of charging. With the option of simultaneous AC charging via additional cables or sockets, it provides additional multi-charge flexibility and supports a wider breadth of vehicle types, minimising the footprint of charging infrastructure.

Being streamlined

Another area where technology advances are making a critical difference is load management. The overall cost of running a charger is affected by when you can draw your power. For example, if there are five chargers in one place and everyone wants to charge at once, it can have the potential to take the site power usage over the peak load – and ultimately increase the cost to the operator far more than normal. The ability to remotely slow chargers down and keep the system under the peak load point is powerful. It still enables people to gain the charge they need, particularly as the concept of top-ups gains traction in the consumer sphere – and it enables operators to manage a competitive, profitable service.

Research conducted by Evenergi, as part of the Strategic Regional EV Adoption Program, funded by Evenergi, ARENA, South Australian Government and SA Power Networks[1], provides evidence that demand management will address the majority of hotspot situations. Avenues such as using price signals to influence market behaviour, and smart charging to interface between vehicle-to-grid set-ups or local storage, are just some pathways for keeping an individual’s experience, as well as the wider network, streamlined.

Sequential charging is another area of innovation our team is advancing to contribute to better load management. The use of rechargeable batteries means that most charging can occur during low demand periods. ABB has developed chargers up to 150kW that can successively charge three buses via remote programming. This sequential charging spreads the charging power throughout low-demand periods, providing a full charge for the working day.

This is just a handful of possibilities in the wealth of load management solutions and tactics available. The key is to tap into the intelligence able through electric vehicle charging. With the right management, grids can support reasonable growth in electricity needs while using the infrastructure we already have. Integrate renewables and the game changes once again in our favour.

Thriving safe

The final area where technology is changing the playing field for electric vehicles is the safety advances being made. ABB’s chargers, for example, are specifically designed so they can be used by the public. There are a lot of solutions in the public that are certified to a given standard, but often not a standard fit for the general public. ABB’s chargers are certified to residential standards, with independent testing, to ensure they are safe solutions with maximum accessibility. However, we’ve taken that even further.

Electromagnetic interference can disrupt the proper functioning of such devices and also wireless communications – and pose health risks to consumers. ABB’s chargers are designed to comply with the EMC emission requirements for residential use (IEC 61000-6-3 Class B). This provides increased safety for electric vehicle users who have devices such as implanted cardiac pacemakers. We continue to invest in testing our solutions to stringent standards as a default. The ability for the broader electric vehicle industry to adapt to these important wellbeing realities – and to spread access – is both essential and exciting.

I’ve touched on just three areas. Something that makes this field so compelling is that technology is advancing daily – and with a far greater focus on value for end users and ways to improve daily lifestyles, whether for work or play.

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[1] https://arena.gov.au/knowledge-bank/managing-the-impacts-of-renewably-powered-electric-vehicles-on-distribution-networks/

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About the author

Sean Stove

Sean Stove is ABB Australia’s head of transportation and rail segments, having been involved in the rail sector since 2003. Joining ABB in 1997, Sean has held numerous senior roles in sales, operations and business development across Asia Pacific and Europe. In this role he is responsible for leading ABB's offering to the rail and transportation industry, from innovative solutions for rolling stock propulsion to energy efficient solutions for power infrastructure to software optimisation for asset health and management. After completing his Electrical Certificate from Christchurch Polytechnic, Sean became a graduate of the University of Queensland’s Mt Eliza MBA Program, and completed the Senior Leadership Development program at the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland.
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