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2021-12-02 short info

Megawatt Charging System: Standardization supports global electrification of heavy-duty traffic

Charging heavy-duty commercial vehicles poses new challenges when it comes to the performance of charging technologies. The Megawatt Charging System (MCS) provides appropriate solutions and will contribute to the electrification of heavy-duty transport over the long term.

In the following interview Bernd Horrmeyer talks about MCS technology, current developments in standardization, and the importance of national and international activities aimed at addressing and shaping this topic in cooperation with partners worldwide.

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Interview with Bernd Horrmeyer

DKE: Mr Horrmeyer, Germany aims to achieve climate neutrality by 2045. In addition, regulations are being enacted at national and international levels in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. How does this relate to heavy-duty commercial vehicles with combustion engines?

Horrmeyer: The EU has adopted a regulation which requires that the emissions from trucks and heavy-duty commercial vehicles be further reduced, initially by 15 % by the year 2025 and 30 % by 2030 compared to 2019. Thus manufacturers in the EU are required to take appropriate measures in order to reduce emissions. And the electrification of vehicle fleets is at the top of the agenda.

Some regions are even more restrictive: In the U.S., for example, specifically in California, vehicles with internal combustion engines are no longer to be registered as of the year 2030. This applies to both passenger cars and lighter vehicles. Furthermore, no heavy-duty commercial vehicles with combustion engines are to be registered as of the year 2035 onward. In this respect intensive efforts are also under way there in order to develop alternative forms of propulsion and to offer them to the market. The electrification of the drive system is an obvious choice. In China, however, these efforts are being moved in a different direction. In the area of heavy-duty commercial vehicles, the focus is on battery replacement systems.

Combined Charging System provides the basis for the Megawatt Charging System

DKE: Where technological development advances, standardization always has a role to play. In this context, you are working on the Megawatt Charging System (MCS). What exactly is that?

Horrmeyer: The Megawatt Charging System relies on the experience that we have gained with the Combined Charging System (CCS) that has been in place in Europe and North America for about ten years now. And this experience shows that the performance of the CCS simply does not meet the requirements of heavy-duty commercial vehicles.

We need a significantly higher charging capacity. However, we also know that there are problems with the CCS in terms of compatibility and expandability. One example is the charging voltage: The CCS cannot be made compatible to achieve the voltage range of more than 1 000 volts intended for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. Furthermore, communication plays an important role here. Again, we know that a necessary new type of communication is not compatible with the CCS. We will take the lessons learned in the past and incorporate them into the MCS. This applies, among other things, to signalling, electrical safety parameters and safety concepts.

So, there are many aspects that, from the electrical point of view, go well beyond what the CCS can achieve. However, and this is an important point: Of course, the Megawatt Charging System also takes into account and incorporates what I call the "good genes" of CCS.

DKE: Once again, regarding the charging capacity: Can you give us a few figures to illustrate the dimensions?

Horrmeyer: At present the CCS is able to deliver a maximum charging voltage of 1 000 volts and a maximum charging current of 500 amps. The 500 amps can be supplied continuously by cooling the charging cable and charging plug. This is already made possible by so-called "high power charging," which we see at some motorway rest stops in the form of charging stations from certain providers.

With the Megawatt Charging System, the maximum charging voltage is increased to 1,250 volts, and the maximum charging current to 3,000 amps. This means that we can charge with just under four megawatts – in contrast to CCS with a maximum of 500 kilowatts.

The Megawatt Charging System as a nationwide charging standard for heavy goods transport by 2030

DKE: Let’s imagine a logistics company that already owns a large fleet of electrified commercial vehicles. Now, the MCS becomes the uniform standard. Will existing commercial vehicles simply use the new system? Or will the entire fleet have to be replaced? What about the infrastructure?

Horrmeyer: Today's commercial vehicles using CCS are more likely to be found in the 3.5 or perhaps 7.5 ton range for inner-city delivery traffic. So, in that case we are talking about very short distances.

With the Megawatt Charging System, however, we aim to service long-distance traffic with heavy-duty commercial vehicles. There will probably be a transition phase at the beginning so that both charging systems can be used in the vehicle. And, initially, there won’t be all that many MCS charging stations. Charging at a CCS charging station will then be possible for drivers, but will take correspondingly longer.

DKE: When can we expect widespread use of the MCS?

Horrmeyer: We expect to have adopted standardization of charging systems on both the vehicle and the charging station side before the EU requirements come into effect in 2025. Other aspects, such as communication or billing procedures, must of course be ready by that time.

I assume that vehicle models will be equipped with the MCS and that an infrastructure will be established as soon as it is foreseeable when the standards will be published. So by 2025, an infrastructure with vehicles and charging stations should be in place. My estimation is, that by 2030 the market will have formed in Europe so that the Megawatt Charging System for heavy electrified commercial vehicles will be part of everyday life.

An important point here is the considerable investment required for expanding the infrastructure. For these high charging capacities, MCS charging stations with many charging points will need to have substations and motorway in close proximity while establishing a large parking lot there. If we look at how many trucks are already parked at motorway parking lots today, then it becomes clear how high the demand will be in the future.

Possible applications for high charging capacities and energy quantities are already available

DKE: The time required for the charging process is, as you mentioned, an important issue. And time is of the essence particularly for truck drivers. How fast can a truck be charged with the MCS?

Horrmeyer: The calculation looks like this: Truck drivers have to take a 45-minute break every four and a half hours. During this break the vehicle is either to be fully recharged or its battery charged to such an extent that the range is again sufficient for at least four and a half hours of driving until the next break. So we are talking about enormous charging capacities and amounts of energy.

DKE: Let’s get away from our roads: For what other mobility sectors could the MCS be suitable?

Horrmeyer: Other areas of application are certainly conceivable. In Norway, for example, electrified ferries are in operation for crossing fjords. Charging systems are used in this case, but they are rather proprietary in terms of their design and used only for that particular application. Further expansion will then require more of an established charging system, such as we will have in future with the Megawatt Charging System. However, it is not the case that work is already under way on specific standardization projects for these additional applications.

The situation is similar in the air taxi sector. Although air taxis are not yet in commercial operation, they are already well advanced in terms of development. And enquiries have already been received with regard to the MCS. I can also well imagine that the MCS can be used in the fields of agricultural and construction machinery. In any case there is a whole range of possible applications.

However, it is not the case that requirements or standards to be met by these additional applications have already been incorporated into the design of the MCS. In standardization we focus on heavy-duty commercial vehicles. However, if we can account for the simple aspects of these additional applications, then we will certainly include them. In the case of major deviations, however, we are talking about projects that have to be initiated by the stakeholders involved, but which can then in turn be based on the technology of the Megawatt Charging System.

Technical Specifications currently in preparation and their planned transformation into International Standards

DKE: We have now talked a lot about technology and infrastructure. However, standards will have to be prepared in order for everything to operate safely and in an interoperable manner. Would you please provide us with a little insight into the standardization work on MCS just mentioned?

Horrmeyer: With pleasure. IEC/TS 61851-23-3 and IEC/TS 63379 are the core standards here.

IEC/TS 61851-23-3 is a system standard, which means that it describes requirements for system aspects such as electrical safety, short-circuit response, signalling, and communication. This project has been accepted by the IEC as a New Work Item Proposal (NWIP). The first meeting of the project team was held at the end of October 2021.

In addition, we also need standardization for the charging set connected to the charging station, i.e. the combination of cable and plug. This is being done by the IEC/TS 63379 project team, which has been working on it since spring 2021.

Both standards are currently still in the form of technical specifications (TS), because we are actually entering new territory with this topic. And experience has shown that other aspects will be added over time. As soon as work starts on the next revisions, it is expected that both Technical Specifications will be transformed into an international standard as usual.

Standardization topic to be addressed and shaped together with partners worldwide

DKE: You already spoke briefly about China at the beginning of the interview. Let’s delve a little deeper into the topic: What is the role of the Sino-German Sub-Working Group E-Mobility in relation to the Megawatt Charging System?

Horrmeyer: A German-Chinese Standardization Commission has been in existence for several years now. One of its working groups, in which members exchange information with regard to common interests and approaches, deals with the topic of electromobility.

For us on the German side, the current motivation is to make the Megawatt Charging System known in other regions of the world as well. And we want to encourage the partners to tackle and shape the standardization area together, so that we arrive at uniform systems that are used not only in Europe and the USA, but also in China and other Asian markets.

Acting together and setting uniform standards is enormously important, especially for the electrification of heavy-duty commercial vehicles, because the available market is much smaller than the one for passenger cars. Accordingly, manufacturers would benefit if there were a system that everyone agreed on. Of course this is an idealistic view and the reality of the system world will continue to be diverse in the foreseeable future, but we can still achieve an incredible amount if we continue to move closer to this ideal. However, in order for that to happen we also have to take the first step.

The National Platform Future of Mobility brings together the right partners and makes recommendations

DKE: Let’s stick with the organisations for a moment: In the preliminary discussion, you mentioned the National Platform Future of Mobility (NPM). What does the NPM contribute to the MCS project?

Horrmeyer: The National Platform Future of Mobility is a kind of “catalyst”, a facilitator for standardization and therefore ranks above the standardization level in order to bring the right partners together. Essentially, it is a matter of working together and introducing the common ideas into standardization so that they can be implemented.

In Germany the NPM is a very important driver, modifier and facilitator when it comes to bundling activities and contributing to consensus building or connecting stakeholders from other countries through political channels and promoting a common stance at the international level. Recently, for example, the interim report “Heavy commercial vehicles – Standards and norms for alternative drive systems“ (German report) was published.

DKE: So the NPM makes recommendations?

Horrmeyer: Exactly. The NPM is not normative in character, but pushes for consensus-building among the stakeholders and makes recommendations both to politicians and to business representatives and trade associations, such as the automotive industry, the electrical and electronics industry and the energy industry.

Electrification of heavy goods transport reduces CO2 emissions and supports climate policy goals

DKE: To build a bridge to the first question: To what extent does the MCS contribute to achieving climate policy goals — regardless of the country?

Horrmeyer: Heavy goods transport as we still know it today means high CO2 and other emissions. The MCS will give a big boost to the electrification of heavy-duty commercial vehicles. If we look at it in a global context, this contributes significantly to reducing emissions in the long term and in this way also to taking some of the “burden” off of the mobility sector.

I see incredible potential in the technology and believe that with all the possibilities that the Megawatt Charging System has to offer, we can make a big contribution to achieving our climate policy goals — regardless of the country that formulates them. We just have to work together to do it.

DKE: Thank you very much for the interview, Mr Horrmeyer!


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