Tractor in the field

Electrifying a Movement

ADDRESSING THE TIME TO CHARGE INDUSTRIAL AND COMMERCIAL TRANSPORTATION VEHICLES

THE TREND TOWARDS ELECTRIFICATION VERSUS THE TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP Vehicle electrification is gathering steam, as originalequipment manufacturers and auto makers drive industry innovation forward. The benefits of electrification are profound and numerous, creating a sustainable mode of transportation that reduces use of non-renewable energy and carbon emissions, among other gains. Obviously, there are hurdles that have yet be overcome, including building out a widely available charging infrastructure, developing next-generation vehicle architectures and solutions, and financing this extensive industry innovation. Nonetheless, challenges for electric vehicles in the commercial realm are far different than those manufactured  for consumers.

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 For a business operation, meeting the needs of customers is a given. When that business is in the transportation sector, those needs can usually be summarized as providing on-time delivery at the lowest cost to the customer. Businesses want to minimize total cost of ownership (TCO) while still meeting customer demands to drive their profitability and operational efficiency.

 

Each one of the concerns illustrated below in Figure 1 is directly related to the challenges that the industrial and commercial transportation (ICT) industry is currently addressing. Each one affects TCO in some way, and each one will eventually be solved. One of these key challenges facing the industry today is the time to charge a battery electric vehicle (BEV).

 

There are many commercial applications where time to charge is not the biggest concern. City buses, for example, can adopt full electric propulsion architectures very quickly. Cities across the US and Europe are introducing electric buses for municipal applications. But China has focused on bus fleet application in a big way. Of the roughly 425,000 electric buses globally on the road today, China has over 400,000 of them. These buses run well-defined routes and have dedicated recharging stations in their parking garages. School buses are another candidate for BEV quick adoption. They are used a small percentage of the day and travel well-defined routes. Local (last mile) deliveries from postal services or package services like DHL, Yamato Transport, UPS, Zhongtong, and Amazon are also in a position to quickly adopt BEVs.

 

For other commercial applications, the move to BEV propulsion is not so straightforward. For a long-haul transportation business moving products, people, or produce, a delay of hours to recharge a truck or bus is simply unacceptable. Goods need to arrive at their intended location quickly and on-time. Travelers booking passage on a cross-country motor coach cannot be expected to stop every few hours and then wait a few more hours to charge the bus. Time to charge must at least be on par with diesel refueling. As US statesman and scientist Benjamin Franklin once said, time is money. Long charging delays lead to fewer customers, less throughput, and lower revenues.

vehicle electrification
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THE INDUSTRY IS FOCUSING ON PROVIDING A FASTER CHARGING INFRASTRUCTURE Electric vehicle charging stations seem to be popping up everywhere. But in reality, the ability to quickly and conveniently charge one’s car (let alone a heavy-duty long-haul truck) pales in comparison to the availability to do so at a diesel or petrol station. The transportation and power utility industries are hard at work addressing this critical industry need, as demonstrated in figure 2 on the next page.

 Today’s available fast chargers, providing between 50 to 200 kilowatts of power, typically can add just under 200 miles of driving range in one hour for a typical electric car. Currently, the industry is developing high-power charging (HPC) to provide the same amount of charge (200 miles of range) in 10 minutes or less, producing an experience similar to filling up your gas tank in an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. The commercial vehicle segment, with larger batteries and longer journeys, has a strong need for even higher power charging capability, given the large battery capacities for their applications. Several groups, including the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), CharIN E.V., and the CHAdeMO association are working to develop charging standards for electric vehicles worldwide.

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 Several protocols and physical interfaces have been developed along the way by these industry-wide bodies. Work is underway to establish and accelerate ultrafast DC charging. While the exact implementation of a standard is still under debate and discussion, it is certain that at some point in the not-too-distant future an ultrafast DC charging capability will exist. Whether via plug-in charging stations as outlined in Figure 2, or via pantograph, ensuring that vehicles are ready to take advantage of ultrafast charging cannot wait until the standard interface is defined.

VEHICLES FACE TECHNICAL CHALLENGES RELATED TO FAST-CHARGING CONNECTIVITY Will vehicles be ready to effectively handle 500 KW charging? 1MW and beyond charging? Although the need to be able to charge a vehicle in minutes rather than hours is apparent, the way to safely and effectively address this requirement is not as obvious.

 

These demands are driving the industry to focus on a broad range of solutions to solve never-before-seen challenges. Charging inlets must be able to handle 10 to 20 times the power of the current generation of electric cars. Trying to push up to 1 (or more) Megawatts of power through an inlet sized to handle 50 kilowatts is akin to someone trying to drink from a firehose. Connections, cables, and switches/contactors must all be able to intelligently manage this power transfer, dealing with heat, arcing, and safety issues. New thermal modeling and simulations techniques need to be developed, allowing for optimized design of components and subsystems that can be stressed by the high charging voltage and current needs.

Thermal modelling

Figure 4: High Power Connectivity Path: Thermal Modelling

 Accurate sensing, both contacting and non-contacting, needs to provide real-time information for intelligent power management.

 

Figure 3 shows a simplified representation of a connectivity architecture that each vehicle manufacturer develops and customizes to its needs. As a connectivity supplier, TE Connectivity works closely with customers to support their success by providing robust solutions tailored to their specific needs and vehicle architectures. Specifically, for fast charging, TE Connectivity supports customers by breaking down application requirements from the charging inlet through the battery by answering a series of smaller, more focused questions. When we work with our customers, we help them evaluate:

 

  • How do vehicles best address varying global standards? Referencing Figure 2, there are many competing worldwide standards for the charging plug interface, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. TE Connectivity, working with global customers and across multiple transportation segments, has tailored solutions to match the market needs. This is achieved via a modular, platform building block approach which enables TE to quickly and cost-effectively deliver the right solutions at the right time.
  • Does more power mean more heat? Thermal management for charging is the biggest challenge for the inlet, plug, and cable. Simple physics dictates that P=V*I; Heat = I2R (where P = Power; V = Voltage; I = Current; R = Resistance). Typical battery packs are currently at 480V. Moving from 50kW (480Vx100A) to 240kW (480Vx500A) is ~5X increase in power for 25X increase in heat. TE Connectivity has an in-house electro-thermal modeling and simulation capability, allowing for optimized design of components and subsystems that can be stressed by the high charging voltage and current needs.
  • Does the higher power required to do fast charging drive technology advances in the vehicle charging inlet? TE Connectivity has developed charging inlets, with integrated sensing and actuation capability, to allow for intelligent charging control while providing touchsafe operation and charging state feedback safely and reliably. These inlets can be scaled to accommodate varying customer electrical/electronic architectures inside the vehicle, from discrete point-to-point operation or via distributed intelligent control. TE’s architecture and electronics teams delivers solutions to fit varying charging station approaches and protocols.
  • Does higher power mean bigger wires and bigger connections? Currents exceeding 200A require cooling to keep cable and connector sizes manageable from the charging station to the vehicle. Simply growing the connection elements will make them unusable and cost-prohibitive. Similar challenges exist inside the vehicle. While the connection from the inlet need not be physically handled like a charging cable, it still needs to be as small, light, and cost-efficient as possible. TE Connectivity works with customers to proactively address these complex problems, leveraging material science and contacts physics expertise as well as employing active cooling and advanced power management techniques in creating innovative new solutions. Figure 4 illustrates some of the cooling opportunities along the high power connectivity path.
  • What is the safety impact of the higher power requirement for fast charging? The higher the power and voltage, the higher the safety risk. Charging interfaces are limited to 1000V to1500V due to voltage safety concerns. It is critical to manage temperatures, so people don’t burn themselves touching the charging handle. TE Connectivity works with customers to provide connectivity solutions to address these challenges. By integrating sensing (temperature, voltage, current) all along the current path, as well as providing controllable elements (contactors, relays, smart inlets, smart actuators), TE’s customers have different levers they can use to intelligently manage and safely control the power path from beginning to end.
  • Can in-vehicle battery connections handle the increased power? Battery technology development is a prime area of industry investment. Increasing the driving distance on a single charge means batteries are needed with increased power density. The challenge is how to maximize power per cm3 while minimizing the package size and keeping costs under control. TE Connectivity is developing high-voltage, physically compliant, battery module contacts and connection interfaces enabling battery pack scalability for our customers. They are robust, harsh environment interconnects with integrated current, voltage, and temperature sensing, enabling smart control of battery management (stateof- charge and state-of-health). This enables customers to balance the active chemical mass versus the mechanical overhead of the battery system.
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Truck architecture

TE CONECTIVITY AS THE SUPPLIER OF CHOICE In summary, there is a strong industry need to deliver more power to the battery in a shorter amount of time (from hours to minutes) to refuel vehicles for long-haul commercial applications. More power means more heat and more component stress within the vehicle from the charging inlet to the battery. This phenomenon must be intelligently managed. Contacting and non-contacting sensing techniques are needed to provide accurate, real- time temperature, voltage, and current information. To address these challenges, TE Connectivity’s team of engineers and scientists engage closely with customers and help support their success by developing robust solutions tailored to their specific needs and vehicle architectures for the harshest of environments today and well into the future.

 

We are a system-knowledgeable connectivity solutions supplier with electronics architecture and physical integration expertise, enabling us to speak our customers’ technical language. We support our customers with a comprehensive product portfolio, technical design expertise and know-how, manufacturing and application tooling prowess, and leveraging the power of TE - our depth and breadth of industries and markets served by our engineers, scientists, and global presence.

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Product Portfolio. As a global leader in connectivity solutions, we collaborate with our customers and other industry technology leaders to create engineered solutions that address the diverse architectural needs for high power connectivity solutions. We have a strong portfolio of terminals and connectors tailored to meet increasing power and vibration requirements. We are able to provide complete inlet assemblies that allow for intelligent charging control while providing touch-safe operation and charging state feedback safely and reliably. These solutions include high-power connectors for charging, integrated actuators to lock cable nozzles to the vehicles, sensors to provide temperature and current information to battery modules, and LEDs to provide information to the vehicle operator.

 

We can provide robust, harsh environment interconnects with integrated current, voltage, and temperature sensing enabling smart control of battery management (state-ofcharge and state-of-health). To round out the portfolio, we offer high-voltage contactors (electronically controllable switches) and connectors enabling safe and efficient power switching and distribution for intelligent and optimized charging.

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Technical design expertise and know-how. Drawing upon more than 75 years of physical connection systems expertise, TE Connectivity’s team of engineers, contact physicists, and material scientists work closely with customers to develop optimized solutions to ever-increasing connectivity demands and challenges. 

 

With design centers around the world, all the simulation, modeling, prototyping, and testing can be done close to where our customers are located. Additional technical capability includes: RF design and EMC expertise; design, manufacturing, and application tooling expertise in miniaturized and compliant interconnect technology enabling small, robust packaging; seamless electronics integration; environmental test and development laboratories at design locations to support both ends of the product development cycle; tools and equipment to optimize designs to customers’ ever-evolving operating environment needs.

 

Depth and breadth of industries served and global presence. TE Connectivity serves a vast array of customers representing diverse industries and markets including consumer electronics, aerospace and defense, industrial, appliances, transportation, to name a few. By linking and leveraging across our company, our industrial and commercial transportation-focused engineers can draw upon the knowledge and experience of colleagues across the globe to solve ICT industry challenges.

 

We participate in various standards committees and industry consortia, enabling us to address problem solutions early in the process. We invest extensively in upfront R&D, seeking to collaborate on solving tough industry challenges before they become problems for our customers.

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Manufacturing and application tooling.

As a global manufacturer of connectivity solutions with an in-house application tooling business unit, we not only practice worldclass manufacturing process for our products, but also confirm that our product designs align with specific customers’ manufacturing methods and practices. We have the tools and equipment to optimize designs to customers’ ever-evolving operating environment needs. We work with the complete supply chain, from harness makers to module makers to system suppliers, to provide optimized system-level performance for high power connectivity. We provide the right power connectivity solution for the specific application and need.

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REFERENCES

  1. Electrifying a Movement: Connectivity for Electric Vehicle Charging, Energy Storage, and Controlled Power Management, Trend Paper, TE Connectivity, April 2020, https://www.te.com/content/dam/te-com/documents/automotive/global/electrifying-a-movement-trend-paper-en.pdf
  2. “Electrifying a Movement: Accelerating Hybrid & Electric Mobility In Commercial Transportation,” TE Connectivity, Article, June 2020, https://www.te.com/global-en/industries/hybrid-electric-mobility/insights/electrifying-movement-trend-paper.html
  3. Mark Kane, “CharIN Starts Development Of Fast Charging Beyond 1 MW,” Article, InsideEvs, February 27th, 2019, https://insideevs.com/news/343058/charin-starts-development-of-fast-charging-beyond-1-mw/
  4. Position Paper of Charging Interface Initiative e.V., April 29, 2020, https://www.charinev.org/media/position-papers-regulation/
  5. CharIN High Power Commercial Vehicle Charging Task Force Aggregated Requirements, Requirements Document, February 18, 2019, https://www.charinev.org/fileadmin/HPCCV/High_Power_Commercial_Vehicle_Charging_Requirements_v2.0.pdf
  6. CHAdeMO Technology Overview. https://www.chademo.com/technology/technology-overview/
  7. Sam Abuelsamid, Navigant Research, “Electrification and Automation Will Transform the Future of Trucking,” Automotive World, September 9, 2019, https://www.automotiveworld.com/articles/electrification-and-automation-will-transform-the-future-of-trucking/
  8. Kristoffer Tigue, “U.S. Electric Bus Demand Outpaces Production as Cities Add to Their Fleets”, Inside Climate News, November 14, 2019, https://insideclimatenews.org/news/14112019/electric-bus-cost-savings-health-fuel-charging
  9. Laura Beshilas,“Fuel Cell Electric Buses in the USA,” NREL, Article, June 25, 2019, https://www.nrel.gov/state-local-tribal/blog/posts/fuel-cell-electric-buses-in-the-usa.html
  10. Lauren Navarro, “California’s smart and economically savvy plan for electrifying trucks”, Article, Environmental Defense Fund, March 6, 2020, http://blogs.edf.org/energyexchange/2020/03/06/californias-smart-and-economically-savvy-plan-for-electrifying-trucks/
  11. Patterson, Jeremy, “DC Fast Charging: A Thermal Challenge”, “Charged Electric Vehicles Magazine” Webinar, June 16, 2020, https://chargedevs.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/automotive-next-gen-mobility-hp-charge-04-2019- EN.pdf