The world is undergoing an electric vehicle (EV) revolution and the majority of automobile manufacturers have started producing EVs. Of course the success of EV adoption depends not only on production, but on the accessibility of charging stations. Currently, two charging methods are widely used: plug and charge technology and battery swapping. Both technologies have their pros and cons but both lack a clear potential for standardization and increased accessibility. In the rapidly evolving electric vehicle ecosystem however, a resilient charging infrastructure is a key parameter for EV adoption anywhere, and areas with a robust network of charging facilities, including both public and home charging, evidently have a higher percentage of EV use. Considering what prevents the effective deployment of such charging infrastructures, this article looks at some of the barriers that halt the standardization of the two main charging methods for EVs.
Barriers to standardizing plug and charge
What is referred to as plug and charge is the method of connecting an EV to a charging cable to the charge point, with the vehicle being automatically charged. One concern with this method is that different brands are being used with different plug designs. This also entails differences in the charging source (AC vs. DC source). In addition, while some countries like China and the European Union have proposed strict nationwide standardization of charging ports, standardizing this technology is still widely debated in other parts of the world.
- Among notable barriers, we note that pioneer automobile manufacturers are heavily invested in developing charging solutions to in turn develop IPs on charging technology for unique market advantage.
- Second, automobile manufacturers designed their charging solution in ways that differentiate individual brands. With their own charging port design and depending on the battery chemistry, unique charging parameters are defined, like voltage and current, in order to increase the life of the batteries.
- Third, new charging techniques like rapid fast charging and inductive charging solutions are always seen as a market-attracting parameters by the automobile industries.
Keeping the barriers above in mind, a preferred strategy to increase standardization may be to opt for a country-based focus on implementing change. Considering the barriers to the universal standardization of plug and charge, some argue that a country-wide standardization may be easier to achieve from a policy standpoint. Country-wide standardization will notably encourage third-party players to invest in charging infrastructure development as this will increase the probability of investment returns since EV owners can charge their EV with their preferred charging solution provider without any brand-specific restriction.
Barriers to standardizing Battery swapping Technology
When it comes to Battery Swapping technology, a method that consists in charging EVs by swapping the discharged battery with a charged one through a charging station, a few standardization protocols in the world do exist. The technology still has a number of limitations as automobile manufacturers use various battery swapping models with unique design and chemistry. Major barriers affecting the standardization of battery swapping technology also include:
- Most of the time, the design of battery swapping packs is dependent on the automobile’s dimensions, making it hard to standardize battery swapping protocols.
- Battery manufacturers use different chemistries for battery manufacturing, and battery thermal management systems (BTMS) are developed depending on the total electric load of the EV. Therefore, the same battery swapping pack cannot be used for other brands of EVs because the load will vary and affect the BTMS of the battery swapping pack.
In light of the aforementioned barriers, some consider that battery swapping standardization can only be achieved with the support and cooperation of the automobile manufacturers and a move towards a common battery pack design. In addition, overcoming the load-specific battery thermal management system with the support of advanced technologies may also advance the use of a common battery pack that may be used across various automobile brands.
An interesting example of a successful battery swapping standardization protocol can be seen in China, where the government has given clear instructions on the design of battery swapping, including safety requirements, testing methods and inspection rules for battery swapping models.
The standardization of the EV charging ecosystem does not appear achievable for neither of the current charging technologies. Nonetheless, some level of standardization can be achieved with the support and cooperation of the e-mobility industry, especially at the country level. A key consideration for the effective deployment of EV charging infrastructures lies in the effective collaboration of diverse stakeholders, including automakers, utility providers and policy makers.
The success of e-mobility greatly depends on the pace of EV charging infrastructure deployment and country-wide steps towards standardization could help reduce barriers for EV charging and speed up EV adoption. The increased standardization of charging protocols and devices will notably attract new players in the charging infrastructure development and strengthen the charging network in a way that may increase the confidence level of the customers in their choice to purchase EVs.
About the author
Mr. Barath Venkatesan
Intern - Battery Associates
Barath Venkatesan is a Junior consultant at Battery Associates. He has a bachelor’s degree in Nanoscience and Technology and is doing his master's currently in Material Engineering and Nanotechnology at Politecnico di Milano university in Milan, Italy. He is passionate about the circular energy economy and he currently works with various stakeholders in the battery ecosystem to create a sustainable world through the power of batteries.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not Battery Associates’.