Working cooperatively, Volkswagen and E.ON have come up with a system that does away with the need for complex plumbing-in of chargers to the local grid. Its system – which is being tested in the German market under the name E.ON Drive Booster – is 'plug and play', whereby it can be located almost anywhere that has a mains power supply and will charge two EVs simultaneously at up to 150kW.
The system is almost devilishly simple. It integrates a high-capacity battery into the charging station itself which acts a bit like a capacitor. When an EV is plugged in, rather than drawing power directly from the local grid, power is taken from the battery at ultra-fast speed. At 150kW, this will be good for around 120 miles of range in just 15 minutes.
To ensure the integrated battery is continuously topped-up and has sufficient capacity for regular demand, the charging station is fed by a conventional mains input of between 16 and 63 amps. All of the electricity that goes in comes from E.ON's renewable energy sources. Of course, the obvious flaw in the system is that if the Drive Booster is called upon for 150kW of juice repeatedly and in quick succession, it will run out of capacity. However, in its testing phase, E.ON is placing the chargers at motorway service stations with the intention of them being used for 15-minute top-ups. With normal use, they shouldn't struggle to maintain available power.
The ease of physically placing the chargers is complemented by a setup which can be managed on-site and online. Furthermore, in terms of paying for the energy that EV drivers use, internet connectivity will mean that customers can pay wirelessly – we presume via an app or card.
E.ON Board of Management member, Karsten Wildberger, said: "E.ON made progress in electromobility years ago and has brought its own ultra-fast filling stations to the motorways of Europe. From the very beginning, we have been concerned with the wishes and problems of our customers and are now taking the next step towards the future with Volkswagen Group Components. By joining forces, we can now offer our customers flexible ultra-fast charging systems that are faster, simpler and cheaper than conventional solutions.”
One of the big challenges facing the industry in terms of the installation of infrastructure is local grid power availability. As we recently reported, in the UK some parts of the grid lack the power availability to be able to cater for a new wave of ultra-fast chargers. Motorway service locations were highlighted as being particularly problematic and expensive to bring into line with future charging requirements, so this scheme by E.ON and Volkswagen could be a real game-changer.
As we reported, increasing the power availability to service stations, or any other location that wants an ultra-fast charger and needs additional capacity, is extremely expensive. Charger suppliers foot the bill for upgrades to local grids, so they have to weigh up the cost against the potential business they'll generate, and often it's simply not worth it.
E.ON and VW's Drive Booster system negates this issue as no upgrades to the grid are required. Furthermore, as a 'plug and play' system, there is minimal groundwork and site preparation necessary for installation. This makes the system comparatively cheap – and with lower cost comes the ability of more locations to host chargers. All of this adds up to fewer barriers to EV adoption from consumers.
This sounds like a very interesting and potentially game-changing scheme. Faster charging speeds are already favoured by EV drivers, with data showing that they are actively seeking them out when choosing where to charge. Drive Booster's ability to supply 150kW and be placed almost anywhere at a reasonable cost answers pretty much every question that is being asked of EV infrastructure. We hope that the pilot in Germany is a success and would love to see the scheme rolled out over here in due course.