• Jan 16th 2010 at 6:43PM
  • 27
All of the Coulomb Technologies charging units that we've seen thus far are rectangular units that sit on poles or hang from the wall. A new ChargePoint unit that Coulomb is developing with Aker Wade Power Technologies looks much more like a standard gas pump and, more importantly, will provide fast Level 3 charging. These units, which will be available to buy this fall for around $40,000 (and $20,000 to install!), draw power from dedicated 480-volt, 125-amp circuits and can theoretically deliver a full charge in a half hour.
Other levels of charging include the slowest, Level 1, which runs off of 120 volts (also known as a standard outlet), and Level 2, which splits the difference with 240-volt power. Even though Coulomb and Aker Wade are bullish on the the potential for their high-speed chargers, Ford's manager of battery electric vehicle applications, Greg Frenette, told HybridCars.com last fall that:
You can't just charge batteries at any level without some sort of impact on safety, battery life, reliability and durability. I'm not one that believes there's a viable solution-given where battery chemistries and technologies are today-that says you can charge these batteries in two or three minutes and send them on their way.
[Source: HybridCars, Coulomb]


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  • 27 Comments
      • 7 Months Ago
      The jump from an 8 hour charge to a 30 minute charge is a significant technical advance. However, the real measure of success is not whether you can charge in 8 hours or 30 minutes. It's whether you can charge in under 3 minutes like the cars consumers drive and enjoy today. Very few drivers will be willing to wait 30 minutes to charge at what looks like a regular fueling station when they can do it in under 3 minutes today.
        • 7 Months Ago
        No... no... no....

        Wrong!

        Don't expect EV owners to stay with the same fueling mindset of every week fill up in 5 minutes.

        Cars spend 20 hours each day doing NOTHING! Just sitting around. Put chargers where they sit.

        If a car sits at home for 10 hours during, put a level 2 charger that takes 8 hours for a full charger.

        If the car sits for 30 minutes in a shopping mal parking lot, put a level 3 charger for a full charge in 30 min.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Many drivers would be fine with a 30 minute charge up as they eat at a restaurant or do some shopping at the mall. Thats what these chargers are for. They are built with such a high visible profile so the franchises that buy them don't have to put up big signs that say EV fill up here. People will automatically know what its for as they drive by or enter, even if they don't have an EV. Drivers in general will be very happy with decentralized fill-up/recharge stations that cost significantly less than gas, especially as utilities set up programs where they can feed back into the grid and get paid (or credited).
      • 7 Months Ago
      The Ford guy is technically correct, it isn't safe or practical to fully recharge batteries in just 1 or 2 minutes - But there is a big difference between "1 or 2 minutes" and a half hour.

      Half hour charging isn't unreasonable for most LiIon batteries, as long as the circuitry can handle the currents and maintain the proper battery temperature.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Super fast charging is a misguided idea from a petroleum paradigm. The reason that there are gas pumps everywhere, is because there is no other infrastructure for distributing this kind of energy. But there is electricity everywhere, and at or near most every overnight "home" location and at many work locations. Cars spend, on average 20 hours a day at either home or work - so BEVs and PHEVs and E-REVs should will get their energy there. It is easy to do, and one of the major convenience advantages that electrically powered vehicles have over petroleum powered vehicles.

      The Ford guy is factual. Only certain battery chemistries can tolerate getting hit at super-high charge rates. It is less efficient and therefore less "green" to take a high power charge.

      The economics of fast charging guarantee that the idea is DOA. Even thought charging is "fast", the income potential of a charging concession is less than 1/10 that of a gas pump. At $50K a charger, and 30 minute per a 20kWhr charge, would gross 6$ and hour at $0.15 per kWhr . Say you a 10 charger concession, 100 percent utilized for full 24 hours a day, the total sale of electricity would be $1440 a day.

      Now compare that to an average 8 pump gas station, with 25% utilization on 16 hours doing 5 minute, 16 gallon fillups. At $2.50 a gallon, it sells $15,360 of gas a day.

      There is no way to pay the bills by marking up the electricity, unless it was marked up 10x. And that would send all the drivers of EVs back home to charge.
        • 7 Months Ago
        "At $50K a charger"

        If you look at the picture you'll see each station comes with TWO chargers.

        "Now compare that to an average 8 pump gas station, with 25% utilization on 16 hours doing 5 minute, 16 gallon fillups. At $2.50 a gallon, it sells $15,360 of gas a day.

        Better redo your figures. According to the National Association of Convenience Stores. the average profit per gallon in 2005 was 2.7 cents on a markup of 12.7 cents per gallon. But lets say its 4cents profit. That $15,360 (at $2.50 a gallon) translates into 6,144 gallons. That means you're taking in a tad over $245 a day. There's a reason gas accounts for 70% of the revenues but only 30% of the profits at gas stations, they make money off what you buy, not what goes in your tank. EV charging stations would only need an hourly profit margin above a few dozen cents to beat gas stations in profit margins, and these fast charging stations could get away with charging a large premium.

        http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/PainAtThePump/story?id=1998179
        http://www.slate.com/id/2100546/

        These stations are also intended to go places where people park their car for extended periods (and usually spend more). Owners can pull a profit from the charging stations themselves and from what people buy while they wait (meaning higher over profit margins). The fact these units lock in customers for a given period will make these highly desired for retail areas, and the charges may actually be offered at a discount just to increase foot traffic. The idea of customers making that location part of their charging schedule (and therefore being a repeat customers every couple days) will be very enticing to restaurants, eateries, shopping districts, malls, movie theatres, grocery stores, etc. And if the owner puts in a large number of charging stations, they can make money by feeding power back into the grid, on top of what they are charging customers to fill the spot.

        These stations are also cheap compared to gas stations, and few hundred thousand for half a dozen of these is nothing for franchises or shopping districts. In other words, these are much more profitable and lucrative than gas stations, once even a tiny portion of EVs enter a market. This highly profitable, decentralized business model will make charging locations viral once a certain threshold of EVs are on the road, and that will completely eliminate any interest in hydrogen (which would cost hundreds of billions to build a fueling infastructure), as drivers get used to being enticed with charged locations.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Polo,
        good points and good spot.
        I don't usually examine photos too closely as they often have little to do with the subject, but hopefully we get two for the price of one!
        I am pretty confused as to what the price of fast chargers will be.
        The recent figures on the installations in China were huge.
        Perhaps part of the difficulty is that what is included is somewhat blurred.
        A ten point charging station, whilst obviously capable of being powered, is going to put a pretty substantial load on the grid, and presumably local upgrades might often be required, so the $60k figure might only be the cost for the final output point rather than system costs.
        Here is Coulomb's take on level III stations:
        'Aker Wade Power Technologies CEO Bret Aker adds, “Field studies in Tokyo have shown that deploying fast chargers increase vehicle usage by more than 50 percent. And this is with first generation battery electric vehicles that were yet to be optimized for fast charging. With coming improvements in Li-ion technology charge times will be reduced to as little as fifteen minutes. This is the point where consumers will abandon gasoline for electricity. This is the tipping point for electric vehicles.” '
        http://www.euroinvestor.co.uk/news/story.aspx?id=10824794&bw=20100112005873

        I'd put my money into fast charging stations rather than battery swaps though - there will be too many different configurations of batteries to make that viable.
        For most general use such as when you go shopping a 220volt charger in the parking lot should do the job fine though, and between that an home charging relatively few fast chargers should be needed.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Frank your business case is grossly flawed. A level 3 charger cost 60,000 to 120,000 USD and can charge 2 cars simultaneously at 50 kW each. Assume 25% utilization of the charging station and a kWh price premium of 0.2 cents per kWh meaning a price of about 0.3 cents per kWh. This charging station will earn (2 cars*6 (hours per day)*50 (kWh)*365 (days per year)*0.2 (USD profit per kWh)) = 43,800 USD per year. Time to payback about 2 years. That makes a good business case for investing in EV charging stations.

        People will charge their EVs predominantly at home of cause using their own level 2 chargers at 10kW that cost about 4000 USD to install. I think people will use public fast chargers for emergency situations spending 10 minutes to get 8 kWh or enough for 30 miles to drive home to your own charger. People don’t mind paying 30 cents per kWh for emergencies IMO. I certainly wouldn’t.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Jake,
        If most garages rely on their stores to make any profit rather than their petrol, that does not mean that you can just drop takings on the pumps from ~$15k to ~1.5k without it having consequences.
        You aren't going to increase the takings of the store by 10 times to make up!
        Secondly, although you would not be charging up away from home so often, in an electric car when you need a charging point you REALLY need one, and can't just motor on for another 50 miles until a refill is convenient.
        You also would not be very happy to wait if there are 2 ahead of you in the queue, which would be an hour instead of 6 minutes for a petrol car!
        So although most recharging might be at home you would ideally have many more fast chargers available than would be expected if you don't take those factors into account.
        So if you assume that around 80% of journeys are under 40 miles and won't need a recharge, then the 10 times longer charging time of the EV's mean that you would need over twice as many pumps as for petrol, and that does not take into account the urgency of charging I mentioned.
        Government will finance the first few hundred stations, but it is entirely unclear how the rest are to be financed, as it sounds as though they will incurr huge losses.
        Part of the answer will be that the system will be entirely automated - you won't see any station attendants, but will plug your car in and be dealt with by the computer.
        We shouldn't underestimate the costs and challengs of providing infrastructure though - it is all on a very different basis to a few enthusiasts running custom EV cars in a very defined manner, and accepting their limitations.
        Personally I am coming around to the idea of most cars being hybrids, although I prefer the simplicity of EV cars - it may be the only way to keep infrastructure costs affordable, at least outside of the cities.
        • 7 Months Ago
        But you are looking at rapid recharge as a primary charging solution, which isn't what people are proposing it to be.

        Rapid recharge is still useful for occasional charging, where people would be willing to spend a premium to charge. And most gasoline stations don't earn money from selling gas, but rather from the convenience store (from what I have heard). Another idea is to have rapid chargers at a restaurant, where you can get a full charge (maybe for free provided you order) during a meal.

        There are situations where slow chargers aren't enough (emergencies and road trips), and rapid chargers can fill in for those situations.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Frank,
        An a per-pump basis, then the ~$150/day basis you give you would only be paying for the electric, without margin.
        If you assume a 100% margin, then you would have a gross profit of $150/day and be selling electric at 30cents/kwh.
        That sounds good at first, as for your investment of $60,000 you make $54,750 in your first year.
        Unfortunately that assumes 100% use.
        Just the same, at a more realistic 20% use (low use at night etc) then you should have a financible business, providing other running costs are not too high.

        This sounds do-able for the States.
        In Europe things are different.
        The initial introduction of electric cars is easier, as high tax rates on fuel make the economics much better.
        That is fine until you have a lot of EV cars on the road.
        Then tax revenues get hit hard, and Governments would have to get the money from EV drivers one way or another.
        Rates per kwh in Germany are around 30 cents/kwh anyway.
        The same 15 cents surcharge would pay for the charger, so if they actually had a mark-up of 100% then some revenue would go to the Government, but not nearly as much as for petrol.

        Everything always costs more than you hope, and my estimate of 20% utilisation for charging points is optimistic anyway, and would result in a lot of people not being able to find a charger when they want one at peak times.
        I'd guess then that in the US rates might be around 45 cents/kwh for a fast charge, and there would be a lot of more modest 240 volt chargers in parking lots etc, so allowing 'topping up' rather than a full re-charge.
        In Europe whatever the other virtues of EV cars folk are unlikely to save money by running them compared to their present costs for ICE cars. Taxation will see to that.
      • 7 Months Ago
      so you dudes can hang out at the charging station for a half hour. Or eat at restaurants that have to amortize $50k of capital for every table they own.
      • 7 Months Ago
      I too am perplexed by the inclusion of the irrelevant quote by the Ford rep.

      More on topic:
      These stations are using the specifications developed by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company). http://www.iea.org/work/2008/transport/TEPCO.pdf

      It's the same DC high power connector as seen on the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. I'm always a bit disappointed by this since the existing European Mennekes connector ( http://www.arb.ca.gov/msprog/zevprog/2009symposium/presentations/preuschoff_oestreicher.pdf) is already capable of Level 3 charging via 3 phase. Why do we have to use an additional connector to get Level 3 charging when the Europeans can do it in the same one they're using for Level 1 and 2?
      • 7 Months Ago
      That BMW/Daimler PDF is a good read, it's great to see engineers thinking hard about charging issues -- electromechanical interlock, discover battery status, automate billing, carry your own cord, 63A(!) capacity) BMW, Damiler, Renault, Tesla, and VW all endorsed this "Commitment to Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Standards", where are Ford and GM and the Japanese?
        • 7 Months Ago
        @ Frank

        "The Europeans are late to the party and have created an alternate charge plug standard as a tactic to delay widespread adoption of products that they are unprepared for."

        Sorry, but you're misinformed. The fact is that the Yazaki J1772 is relatively limited and SAE has been dragging their feet on it. By comparison, the European Mennekes connector appears very well thought out and nicely designed.

        Look I'm an American, but I'm also a scientist and an engineer. Objectively the European connector is just better and it is in use right now. It's much more versatile and forward looking. As battery capacities increase, that "low" power Yazaki connector is going to be rather limiting. I think it's rather silly that now we need yet another connector standard (by TEPCO) that maxes out at 50kW.
        • 7 Months Ago
        The Japanese and Ford and GM are busy actually making and preparing to deliver this year and next production cars that plug-in, (like the E-REV Chevy Volt, EV Ford Fusion and EV Leaf) using the SAE standard plug and cord set.

        The Europeans are late to the party and have created an alternate charge plug standard as a tactic to delay widespread adoption of products that they are unprepared for.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Not sure what the point was for that statement from Greg Frenette. Is he insinuating that Ford will battery swap, because last I heard Ford was rolling out a few EVs of their own.
        • 7 Months Ago
        @David Martin
        I think it's totally fine for occasional use. Most li-ion battery packs should be able to handle charges under 100kW (after all they have to at least discharge at that rate to deliver power to the motor). Of course it's not good for battery longevity to have this as the primary charging method, but a rapid charge solution is still useful for emergencies and can allow longer trips in EVs.

        And 30 minutes is still more than 10x slower than 2-3 minutes, so the power requirements are completely different.

        Rapid charge is something all the EV car makers should be thinking of, esp a standardized rapid charge connector (because unlike standard chargers with an onboard AC to DC charger, a rapid charger will likely require a direct DC connection to the battery).
        • 7 Months Ago
        I don't think there's a lot to read from his comment beside the usual "EVs are not ready" line we've been hearing from automakers with no pure EVs to sell.

        Tesla and Nissan would be the best to comment on the effect of quick charging on their current battery packs.
        • 7 Months Ago
        He is just saying that very fast charging can have issues. Some chemistries handle it better than others, but in any case I would see this as an issue which can be coped with, as long as most charges are slower 'refills' at home, or commercial where it is accepted that you have to change the battery regularly.
        If you need really fast 'refills' though, other technologies are probably better than batteries, which is one of the reasons why nI favour using a sheaf of technologies.
        • 7 Months Ago
        Yeah I was wondering why they included a quote referencing 2-3minute charging when these units are for 30 minute charging.
        • 7 Months Ago
        30 min. fast charge should be standard for any EV!
        Battery and (public) charger design need to adopt that from the scratch.
        Batteries really need to handle quick charge, anything else are toys.

        Lets do it serious and right from the beginning, no more bad joke EVs plz.

        If the Tesla geeks could do it, the big guys with their worldwide engineer armada need to come up with even more fancy stuff. The 30 min. charge option is a must.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Charging stations from the same company for Tokyo are illustrated here:
      http://blogs.edmunds.com/greencaradvisor/2010/01/tokyo-utility-selects-aker-wade-to-build-fast-chargers-for-plug-in-electric-vehicles.html

      These seem to have only one outlet per station!
      It would be nice to see a proper spec sheet.
      • 7 Months Ago
      The one product that keeps most gasoline stations in business is cigarettes.

      If tobacco became illegal, 75% of gas stations would close and the price of gas would go way up.
      • 7 Months Ago
      Home charging would take care of 99 percent of my needs. My one long trip every couple of years would be the problem. If batteries could take me 200 miles - I would be fine stopping for an hour every 200 miles for a bite to eat - while the car charged outside Micky D's - and also recharging overnight at the hotel. I realize this would not work for everyone - but perhaps we will keep hybrids available for people whose needs are not met by home charging. I think we will need some changes in our understanding of how we get the power for our cars - but it should not be too big a shift. Perhaps 7-11 will have the hardest time with the change over (smile).
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