Switched reluctance motor-maker Enedym secures $15 million in new financing round

Enedym, a developer of  electrified powertrains, has secured $15 million in new financing from an international group of investors. The company will use the new investment to accelerate its motor development and increase its footprint in the electric motor market, focusing on OEMs in the automotive, micromobility, wind farm and industrial markets.

Enedym builds switched reluctance motors (SRMs), which require no rare earth permanent magnets. According to the company, its SRMs are potentially  as much as 40% less expensive than competing designs. They also feature high efficiency at high speeds, fault-tolerant operation, and the ability to operate in harsh environments and at high temperatures. SRMs have traditionally faced challenges in the areas of acoustic noise, torque ripples and power density, but Enedym claims to have addressed these problems.

“Having the financial and strategic support of these sophisticated investors both validates our market opportunity and strengthens our momentum as a company,” said Dr. Ali Emadi, founder and CEO of Enedym. “This investment will help us ramp up our operations and grow our team.”

Source: Enedym

Umicore buys a stake in solid-state battery developer Solid Power

Umicore has announced that it holds a stake in solid-state battery specialist Solid Power, following Solid Power’s announcement of its intent to become a publicly listed company. Umicore built its stake through earlier Series A and B investment rounds. 

Solid Power also counts Ford, BMW, Hyundai and Samsung among its investors The company claims that its all-solid-state batteries can deliver a 50-to-75% increase in energy density compared to traditional lithium-ion batteries. 

Source: Umicore

ABB earns CharIN CCS certification for its DC charger portfolio

CharIN is a 200-member global association that promotes interoperability based on the Combined Charging System (CCS). Electronics giant ABB has been an active member of CharIN since its establishment in 2015, and leads a CharIN working group dedicated to CCS interoperability testing and certification.

Now ABB is en route to becoming the first company to secure CharIN CCS Basic Certificates for its DC fast charging stations. The CCS Basic conformance certification indicates that testing has confirmed interoperability and safe operations between a company’s chargers and EVs of any brand.  

DC charging station manufacturers can apply for a CharIN CCS Basic certificate, which will be issued after successful testing by CharIN-recognized test laboratories. DEKRA is one of the first two testing labs officially appointed by CharIN. ABB’s CCS1 and CCS2 charging solutions are currently undergoing certification by DEKRA.

“One of our fundamental principles is to ensure that our charging stations are as interoperable and user-friendly as possible, so that we can really drive broader adoption of EVs around the globe,” said Frank Muehlon, President of ABB’s E-mobility Division. “This certification is a strong sign that we are doing just that; that our chargers are flying the flag for common standards so that more people make the switch to an EV future.”

Source: ABB

XL Fleet partners with eNow on electric transport refrigeration units

XL Fleet has formed a development agreement with eNow, a provider of solar and battery power systems for electric transport refrigeration units (eTRUs). XL Fleet has also invested $3 million in eNow’s convertible notes, and has the right to acquire the company at a predetermined valuation. XL Fleet will supply battery and power electronics systems for the first 1,000 units of eNow’s electrified refrigerated trailer solutions. 

XL Fleet and eNow are collaborating on the design and development of the system that will power fully-electric eTRUs for Class 8 commercial trailers. XL Fleet’s batteries and power electronics will be installed underfloor on the trailers, providing approximately 12 hours or more of run time. eNow will integrate this system into its architecture, which includes solar panels mounted on the roof. Currently available 480-volt 3-phase shore power will be used to charge the batteries and power the eTRU when idle, or during loading and unloading. 

XL Fleet and eNow expect to deliver the first of the eTRUs beginning in the first half of 2022 to customers in industries including food, retail, manufacturing and distribution.

Jeff Flath, President of eNow, said, “Together we will offer renewable power systems for reefer trailers, coupled with charging infrastructure, to eliminate a major source of diesel fuel consumption and emissions for fleets.”

Source: XL Fleet

AMPLY Power offers EV fleets guaranteed uptime and zero charging challenges

AMPLY Power says its charging as a service model provides 99.9% uptime, critical to scaling EV deployments

Fleet charging management may not be the most glamorous segment of the EV industry, but it is emerging as an extremely important component of the future EV ecosystem. As commercial fleets electrify, they are finding that they need expert help to design, install and operate their charging infrastructure. During previous tech revolutions, third-party contractors emerged to provide turnkey services to companies for things like data centers and solar installations. Now innovative companies are meeting the demand for similar services in the fleet charging realm. Charging as a service is the hottest trend in the EVSE world—it offers savings to fleet operators today, and once the nascent technology of V2G takes off, it could offer truly game-changing capabilities for utilities.

Three-year-old AMPLY Power is already providing charging management services to several fleet customers, and the company recently won a high-profile contract to provide managed charging for New York City’s largest pilot of e-school buses, to be operated by Logan Bus, the city’s largest school bus provider.

Charged had a chat with AMPLY CEO Vic Shao.

Charged: Could you explain a bit about why the charging as a service model is needed?

Vic Shao: For new EV fleet operators, charging as a service can be a difficult concept to wrap their heads around without some sort of comparison to parallel industries, so when I talk about charging as a service, I typically draw an analogy to solar PPAs [power purchase agreements].

You don’t really find customers anymore that would select solar panels and inverters on their own, hire a construction crew to build a system, then work with the utility directly on the utility interconnect. You would have a solar developer figure out all that for you and install it, and for large enough deployments, you would do a 20-year solar PPA.

I also tell the story of data centers. Twenty years ago, large companies would put a whole bunch of server blades into electrical closets, thinking this can’t be that hard—just servers in a closet and away we go. Well, as it turns out, it is a lot more complex than one would imagine—operating system upgrades and antivirus protection and batteries to back up the servers and cooling systems for that closet…all of this mess. So, what ultimately happened, of course, is that everybody started using Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure, and just buying the output and leaving all of the complexity to a data center operator.

Our mission is to provide uptime reliability, mission-critical robustness for charging of electric fleets—buses, trucks, light-duty vehicles, school buses and the like. We have live customers across all of those segments.

I’ve been a long-time clean energy entrepreneur. Prior to AMPLY, I founded and ran a company called Green Charge Networks, which over the span of eight or nine years became the largest distributed energy storage provider in the country. Back in 2016, the company was acquired by a French entity called Engie, which is the largest independent power producer in the world. I went on to head up Engie’s global energy storage practice for a couple of years prior to starting AMPLY.

So, the business thesis behind AMPLY is that I simply took what worked for me on my last company with energy storage—and I would argue it’s true for solar, data centers and cloud computing as well—and applied the as-a-service model to charging for fleets. And I believe that this is what’s needed in this market for the industry to scale.

Three big challenges for large EV fleets 

Charged: What are some of the challenges that a typical fleet manager has to go through as they electrify?

Vic Shao: By now we’ve touched hundreds of fleets all across the country, and it seems to always boil down to three major fundamental issues.

In California, electricity costs for charging fleets could be up or down 400% in a single day.

The first is the cost of electricity. Fleet operators are used to a scenario with diesel or gasoline, that pricing goes up or down by, let’s say, 20% in a given year. With electricity, it’s fundamentally a much more volatile fuel pricing structure. In California, electricity costs for charging fleets could be up or down 400% in a single day. And there are something like 2,000 electric utilities across the country, all with their own individual tariff structures, time-of-use schedules, demand charge rates and whatnot. So, it’s highly complex—it’s like going to a gas station and it could be $3 a gallon, or it could be $12 a gallon, and it just depends on all of these extenuating circumstances.

Now, if you are a fleet operator, and fueling cost is your second-highest operating expense, right behind drivers, well then, if you don’t know what your costs are going to be next week, next month, next year, you’re going to have a really hard time committing to a large production-scale rollout. You’re kind of stuck in pilot mode, and that’s what we see all the time. A lot of fleets that have tried electric, they don’t have a path to scale because of this fueling price issue.

The second big issue is that, across these hundreds of fleets that we have touched, we have yet to come across a single fleet that standardizes on one OEM’s products­—one make and model of electric vehicle, one charging hardware OEM. Without exception, every single one of them operates a mixed fleet, with mixed vehicle and charging hardware sets. They need to have an operating system that ties all these hardware sets together, that will deliver reliability, charge readiness at the time that they need the vehicles to roll off the lot. 

Without exception, every single one of them operates a mixed fleet, with mixed vehicle and charging hardware sets. They need to have an operating system that ties all these hardware sets together.

And then the last issue—a big issue—is that it’s not a five-minute fuel-up anymore. No matter how you slice it, it’s going to be several hours of dwell time, so that means, for mission-critical operations, you really need to schedule the charging into the daily workflows of these vehicles. That means dispatch system integration, telematics integration, back-office ERP [enterprise resource planning] integration.

All three of these problems that I narrated are software-related. It’s not hardware, it’s software-related challenges, so what is required for the industry is an operating system that addresses all these points, and that’s essentially what AMPLY has been working on ever since our founding. We call it a charge management system, and it’s an operating system that tackles all three of these issues head-on. And the end output is that for all of our fleets, the charging infrastructure is 99.9% uptime available, robust with failovers and redundancy, and delivering energy savings versus an unmanaged scenario.

Charged: What kind of problems do they see because the vehicles and the charging systems are not standardized to one manufacturer? 

Vic Shao: What we run across all the time is, a charger company with a network-enabled smart charger, during the demo phase with the customer, will say, “Look, you can log into the web portal, you can see that particular charger and what it’s doing in real time, and if you stick the charger into the vehicle, hey, look at that power spike.” The problem is that it’s completely beside the point. This is like if you’re operating a data center or something, and you’re logging into a particular server blade to see how it’s performing—it’s irrelevant. No fleet operator with 50 or 100 vehicles in their parking lot is actually going to do that on an individual basis.

What you need is a system that operates all of the charging and gets a system-level read on what’s going on. One of the problems with the individualized charger approach is that the charger is giving a particular reading on the state of charge, whereas, in their dispatch system, the expected state of charge is different, or the telematics system is giving them a different reading on various data points. Which one is the truth? Which one is the valid data point? You can’t dispatch a bus to drive out for the day’s 100-mile routes when you only have 20% state of charge left, so you need to have accuracy. 

When you get a product spec on a DC fast charger, oftentimes what’s missing is the audible noise level of that charger. How many decibels at three meters?

Another one is a hardware-level example—we encounter this all the time. When you get a product spec on a DC fast charger, oftentimes what’s missing is the audible noise level of that charger. How many decibels at three meters? Now, when you’re installing a couple of chargers in one location, it may not matter all that much. But the kind of projects that AMPLY gets into—we announced a 20-year charging agreement with Anaheim transit last year, with 46 buses and 46 chargers—well, when you have that density, you better believe audible noise is a big deal. So, we would go back and ask the sales rep on that charger, “Hey, your data sheet is missing the audible noise. What is it? Can you tell us?” And the answer is often, I have no idea. In fact, nobody’s even asked that question before.

Infrastructure planning from day one 

Charged: Let’s say, for example, a school district wants to deploy some electric school buses. Can you walk me through how your team gets involved with the project and give me the step-by-step?

Vic Shao: We engage in all different sales cycles. In the best-case scenario, we get involved upfront, before they even come out with a specification or an RFP, and in those circumstances, we can help them design, help them through the layouts. What is most efficient? What are your routes? How many miles a day? How many days of the week? We get our hands into the design of what they’re trying to accomplish, and that’s the most ideal case. We help them with the design, we help them with mapping out the interfaces with the utilities. Do they have existing capacity, or do they need to go back to the utility for a service upgrade? We walk them through all of that, and then we bid the job. If we win it, then we go through with the implementation and the operations.

However, we get into a lot of situations where the operator already has vehicles on order, they’re arriving in three months, and they haven’t even started on the infrastructure. Infrastructure is still often an afterthought in the marketplace. 

In those kinds of situations, we have to do what we have to do to get the customer up and running. It may be too late for us to specify the chargers, and we have to live with whatever is already on order. But we’ve touched enough hardware sets by now that, for the most part, we can operate using our software. We can manage and operate 90% of what’s out there today already—ChargePoint, BTCPower, and so forth. Most of the time, it’s not a huge surprise to us.

However, when we get into a situation where we’re just implementing our software on top of whatever already exists, we can’t fully wrap the project. In other words, we can’t give our customers a performance guarantee on the operations. The ideal outcome is for us to fully wrap a project, so we can give our customers a performance guarantee of a 99.9% uptime. And we can give them a savings guarantee with managed charging. But if we get engaged late, then a lot of times we can’t guarantee the results.

Charged: You announced a project with Palermo, California school buses that will provide a $1.19 per gallon equivalent. Can you explain how you would help someone optimize for fuel costs? What can you do to drive those costs down over time?

Vic Shao: We tell the school district, whenever your drivers get back, just plug in the buses. They’re not going to energize right away, but when they’re needed the next morning, when you need to drive the routes, then these buses are going to be charged up, ready to go. So, from the time that they plug in the buses—let’s say 4 or 5 pm—until the next morning when they need to operate, we do a few things. We sequentially charge them as needed, or during the time when energy cost is lowest, when the demand spike in the building is reduced. Whenever there’s a dip in the power requirements of the building, we use that to charge up the buses opportunistically, while still meeting obligations that our vehicles will be charged the next day.

Whenever there’s a dip in the power requirements of the building, we use that to charge up the buses opportunistically while still meeting obligations that our vehicles will be charged the next day.

Second thing that we do is, we enroll the customer in grid services and demand-response applications. School buses are actually a perfect case for this. They are usually back and plugged in by the time that the grid really needs that capacity—the 4-to-9-pm window in California in the summertime is when energy is the most expensive. The grid is spiking during that period of time, and it just so happens that all the buses are plugged in and available, so the time-of-day use case is very strongly aligned with school buses.

V2B now, V2G in the future 

Charged: Do you have active fleets that are doing that kind of demand response, or is this something that will be rolling out in the future?

Vic Shao: We’re doing that now. In fact, we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week in New York City with a school bus operator called Logan Bus, which is the largest school bus operator in New York City. I think they have something like 2,500 school buses out of 12,000 in New York City. We deployed a very small portion of their fleet just as a start, and on that project, we’re tied in with a demand response [DR] aggregator called CPower, which is going to be dispatching DR for us on that project. So it’s already in place.

Charged: So, in those cases, a utility will call the buses to supply power. And in order to get optimal rates from the utility, do you have to guarantee any kind of capacity at certain times?

Vic Shao: Correct. We have to guarantee a capacity at a certain time of the day. The utilities in Con Edison’s territory, in New York City, they typically have 20 or so demand response events, maybe 30 DR events a year in the summer months. So, you enroll in these programs, you get a day-ahead notice for the event, and you have to allocate certain hours, 3 or 4 hours at a time, when these assets are going to be available and can be used for demand response purposes. Demand response is not pumping power back onto the grid—it’s just that the building load is reduced. We can dispatch power from the bus battery to serve the building, to reduce the overall net draw from the grid, but it’s not pumping power back onto the grid.

We can dispatch power from the bus battery to serve the building, to reduce the overall net draw from the grid, but it’s not pumping power back onto the grid.

Charged: Are there any projects that are looking to pump power to the grid, or is that still in the distant future?

Vic Shao: It’s not in a distant future—in fact, the DR is just the first phase of the Logan Bus project. The hardware set that is in use at Logan Bus is V2G-capable. Right now we’re not doing V2G, but it’s a demonstration that we can do in the coming months. And I use the word demonstration very carefully here, because it requires participation, not just from AMPLY or Logan Bus, but Con Edison has to be on board for that demonstration in order to make this work. 

The utility has to be involved, because when you pump power back onto the grid, it needs to be very carefully thought through. In solar it’s called net metering, when you deliver power back onto the grid. In fleet charging, the term is V2G. And when you spin the meter backwards, when you push power back onto the grid, in Con Edison’s territory, there are network protectors in the distribution lines. When you see a reverse power flow, those network protectors will trip so that it’s not endangering the equipment.

It requires participation from Con Edison for the demonstration, so that we’re not endangering the utility assets, so V2G is very much in a demonstration phase right now. There are no production V2G programs out there in existence, but the equipment that we have deployed is capable. 

Charged: Do you ever deploy stationary storage in these systems?

Vic Shao: Stationary storage is the world that I came from—prior to AMPLY, I founded and ran a stationary energy storage company, so it’s a topic that I know really well. For AMPLY, stationary storage is an option for our customers, for resiliency and backup purposes. For mission-critical operations the question is, if the grid goes out, are we screwed? Can we still get service? And the answer is yes, we can install a stationary storage system for you, to tide you over, but it’s not going to be a full fleet—it’s going to be a select handful of vehicles that you can still continue to operate on an emergency basis. And in those cases, we typically would also pair stationary storage with a solar installation, so that the stationary battery can refill itself when the sun is shining. Again, it’s all for the purpose of resiliency.

99.9% uptime 

Charged: After you help a school district electrify, what do you do in the next 10 years for that operation? 

Vic Shao: We provide the customer with 24/7 support. We are monitoring all of the chargers in real time. We’re seeing their performance. We’re seeing exceptions. For example, for plug-in chargers, we are seeing across the board with our customers that 5% of the time, the guy sticking the plug into the vehicle doesn’t fully insert the plug all the way, so the vehicle cannot energize. In those circumstances we send automatic text alerts, we notify the folks on site: Please go back to bus number one and reinsert. Because what happens without that monitoring is that the morning-shift driver comes in and notices that the bus is not charged, and they’re scrambling to find a replacement vehicle. That bad charging scenario doesn’t need to happen too many times for the fleet operators to go, well, this technology is just too new, it’s not reliable, and I better go back to fossil fuels.

That bad charging scenario doesn’t need to happen too many times for the fleet operators to go, well, this technology is just too new, it’s not reliable, and I better go back to fossil fuels.

That’s the last thing that we want the customer to experience, so proactive alerting, monitoring, energy management is huge. We monitor the load at the meter—exactly what the utility meter sees, we see in real time. The customer doesn’t experience demand charges, we manage the charging so that the profile at the building is as flat as possible, so we get the lowest cost of energy. When there is a hardware problem, we know about it before the customer does, and we try to remotely troubleshoot, diagnose, triage the situation. As a last resort, if we can’t bring it back up remotely, we will roll a service technician to the site, get that charger fixed or replaced if necessary.

Uptime is something that we take very seriously. We have been benchmarking our uptime availability ever since the very first customer went live a year and a half ago. So today we’re very proud of the fact that we’re at 99.9% uptime on all of the chargers that we manage across our customer base.  

This article appeared in Charged Issue 55 – May/June 2021 – Subscribe now.

2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5: First of an aggressive wave of new EVs

The 2022 Hyundai Ioniq 5 should be taken very seriously when it goes on sale this fall. It will be a new and likely very competitive entry in what will soon become a crowded field of EVs in the popular “compact crossover” segment. 

It’s not the first such EV: the Ford Mustang Mach-E, Tesla Model Y, and Volkswagen ID.4 are already on sale. Upcoming entries include the Audi Q4 e-tron, Kia EV6, Nissan Ariya, Subaru Solterra, Toyota bZ4X, and a Chevrolet crossover to be launched in 2023. And that list only includes crossovers that offer standard or optional all-wheel drive.

But the Ioniq 5 and its underlying technology show how serious Hyundai-Kia has become about offering EVs that appeal to mass-market buyers. It’s the first of 23 new battery-electric vehicles the company plans to launch by 2025, under three brands, and they’re targeting total global sales of a million EVs by the end of that year.

Hyundai has been selling battery-electric models in the US since the Ioniq Electric was launched alongside hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings in 2017. Originally rated at 124 miles of range, in 2020 the model received a range boost to 170 miles, and it remains on sale. But Prius-like compact hatchbacks are a fast-fading segment, and that car is too small for most US buyers.

Now, Hyundai has rebooted its EV efforts with a new platform that will spawn a whole range of EVs offering 250 miles or more of rated range. The Ioniq 5 is the first, and it’s aimed squarely at the heart of the most popular family segment in the US: compact crossover utility vehicles.

Heritage style

The Ioniq 5 was previewed in September 2019 by the Hyundai 45 Concept, a styling exercise that harkened back to the company’s very first car. The Hyundai Pony (1976-85) was an inexpensive, conventional small sedan that introduced the South Korean carmaker to the rest of the world.

The same platform also underpins an EV from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia.

Unfortunately for its US marketers, the Pony was never sold in the United States (though it did appear briefly in Canada). Our first Hyundai was the subcompact 1986 Excel, an early front-wheel-drive model. So, the heritage theme simply won’t work in the US.

The Ioniq 5 sits on the company’s Electric-Global Modular Platform (E-GMP), which it says is flexible enough to support not just compact vehicles but mid-size ones too—including an electric three-row SUV it is expected to launch by 2023, perhaps to be named Ioniq 7. 

The same platform also underpins an EV from Hyundai’s sister brand, Kia. That’s the Kia EV6, which couldn’t be more visually distinct. It’s a low, sleek, rounded “crossover” that’s really more like a traditional hatchback. Side by side with the squarer, blockier Ioniq 5, you’d never guess the two share the same “skateboard” running platform—which is, of course, exactly the point of sharing costly new technology without resorting to badge engineering.

800-volt battery

It’s the technical details of the E-GMP platform that underscore the company’s determination to build fully capable EVs. 

First, and perhaps most useful to drivers, is the company’s focus on charging, both AC and DC. Its onboard AC charger operates at up to 10.9 kilowatts at capable Level 2 charging stations, higher than the previous EV standards of 6.6 or 7.2 kW.

To future-proof its DC fast charging, the Ioniq 5’s battery pack operates at 800 volts, rather than the 400 volts used for the last 20 years in both hybrids and EVs. The practical effect is that the Ioniq 5 can use DC fast charging stations that run at higher rates than the 125-to-150 kW limit on most 400-volt EVs. This allows large battery packs to be charged at 250 to 350 kW. Hyundai says a recharge from 10 percent to 80 percent will take just 18 minutes (under optimal circumstances).

Hyundai says the 800-volt battery pack will recharge from 10 percent to 80 percent in just 18 minutes (under optimal circumstances).

To date, only the Porsche Taycan and its platform twin the Audi e-tron GT have 800-volt batteries—though Tesla’s 400-volt batteries can briefly charge at up to 250 kW. Notably, Hyundai promises that every Ioniq 5 will include the ability to use far more plentiful 150 kW charging stations too. That’s a feature that costs Taycan buyers an extra $460. 

The second intriguing aspect of Hyundai’s E-GMP platform is bidirectional charging, which the company calls “Vehicle-to-Load (V2L)” capability. That’s the ability to export power from the battery pack to run external electrical devices, from portable accessories to an entire household. 

Powering (some of) your home

Power export has proven to be a hugely popular feature of the recently announced Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, and Hyundai may find a similar reaction to a mass-market crossover that can power your home in an emergency. However, the electric F-150 exports up to 9.6 kW, while the smaller battery of the Hyundai is limited to 1.9 kW of output. That may not keep your whole house running in a blackout, but it’ll power your fridge—not to mention boom boxes, coolers, and all the other electric gear users may take to tailgaters, campsites and more.

Finally, Hyundai has followed Volkswagen’s lead and built its E-GMP with rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is easily added via a second motor between the front wheels. RWD has advantages for handling and roadholding, and reduces the cost of single-motor base models by eliminating costly constant-velocity joints for powered front wheels.

Electronic features galore

“Once behind the steering wheel, [buyers] are going to be shocked by the [Ioniq 5’s] range, power, comfort, interior space and advanced technology,” said José Muñoz, CEO of Hyundai Motor America. Every new vehicle comes with hyperbole, but this statement could be true—depending on how Hyundai prices the new EV. Thus far, it’s been entirely silent on that front.

The targeted range of the Ioniq 5 launch version is 300 miles, using a 77.4 kWh battery pack in a rear-wheel-drive configuration rated at 168 kW (225 hp) and 258 lb-ft of torque. Adding all-wheel drive, courtesy of a 74 kW motor on the front axle, boosts those ratings to a combined 320 hp and 446 lb-ft, but cuts range to 269 miles—or 244 miles if you check all the option boxes and get the Limited AWD version. The US won’t get the option of the smaller, lower-range 58 kWh battery that’s offered in other markets. 

The AWD version is the hot rod, claimed to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than 5.0 seconds. Top speed of all models is limited to 115 mph, and towing capacity is a modest 1,500 pounds. Rear cargo volume is 27.2 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks up, or 59.3 cu ft with the seats folded. A very small front trunk measures just 0.8 cubic feet—fine for a jacket, not so good for luggage.

The simple, streamlined interior features a central 12-inch touchscreen display, a second 12-inch display acting as a digital gauge cluster, and a head-up display with an augmented reality mode.

The electronics of any new EV are now a key selling feature. The simple, streamlined interior features a central 12-inch touchscreen display, a second 12-inch display acting as a digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel, and a head-up display with an augmented reality mode. Support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is pretty much mandatory, but Bluetooth Multi-Connection, which lets the car pair with two devices simultaneously, is newer.

Advanced driver-assistance systems in the Ioniq 5 will include Smart Cruise Control, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Highway Driving Assist 2, Driver Attention Warning, and quite a few more. Hyundai says the Ioniq 5 will offer over-the-air wireless updates to multimedia features and navigation maps, though it didn’t specify whether ADAS features might be updated as well. The updates will come free to the buyer twice a year.

No US reviews yet

As of June, Hyundai hadn’t provided Ioniq 5 test vehicles to the media, so we can’t offer first-hand impressions yet. But in April, German blogger Dr. Stefan Leichsenring gave the car a solid review.  It “delivers a lot of what it promises,” he wrote, saying he had come away “really excited” about the Ioniq 5, “which is rare” for him. He cited the space inside the passenger cabin, the usable trunk (or cargo bay), and the car’s interior flexibility. In summary, Leichsenring said, “Hyundai has earned an A; the Ioniq 5 is a winner.”

First sales this fall will be limited to 10 ZEV states, plus Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas.

Hyundai’s newest EV will be launched gradually in the US. First sales this fall will be limited to 10 ZEV states, plus Arizona, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company says a broader rollout is scheduled for early 2022. The Ioniq 5 will be packaged with two years of free charging on the Electrify America DC fast charging network.

Moreover, Hyundai plans to join Ford, GM, Nissan, Tesla, Volkswagen and Volvo in building electric vehicles in the US. The company says it will invest $7.4 billion in new and updated US manufacturing capability by 2025, and most of those resources will target EVs. One report suggests the company could start assembling EVs in the US as early as 2022.

A carmaker to watch

Within the auto industry, it’s said that Toyota is not afraid of competition from most other makers. The most profitable large car company is said to be unimpressed by EV plans from Volkswagen Group, General Motors, and the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance. 

The only company that worries Toyota, says the received wisdom, is Hyundai-Kia. Along with tens of millions of buyers worldwide, the Japanese company has seen how fast the Korean maker has grown, becoming the fifth-largest global producer in just three decades.

Every new generation of Hyundai vehicles is notably better in design, features, and performance than its predecessor, and the pace of model change is rapid: four or five years in most cases.

That makes the Ioniq 5, the first of what will be a dozen or more vehicles on E-GMP underpinnings, a canary in the coalmine for other carmakers. If it’s as good in real life as it is on paper, it may prove a formidable competitor among EV compact crossovers. Road tests later this year will show whether it lives up to that promise.  

This article appeared in Charged Issue 55 – May/June 2021 – Subscribe now.

A closer look at humidity control methods for EV electronics

It’s a well-known trope that water and electricity don’t mix, but keeping the two separated is often deceptively difficult, because the simple solution of just sealing the box is insufficient on its own. This is because of condensation, which can come from water vapor in the air at the time the box was sealed, or from years of air exchange via supposedly sealed connectors, wire pass-throughs and the like. A presentation at the Charged Virtual Conference on EV Engineering this past April by Stego, a manufacturer of active condensation control measures, touched on some of these issues, with a particular emphasis on DC fast chargers, but there are many other possible solutions which should be considered, especially if a device has to deal with vibration and shock, as will be the case when it is installed in an EV.

The first things to consider when choosing a scheme to protect against water intrusion or condensation are the cost of the device, closely followed by the consequences of it failing.

The first things to consider when choosing a scheme to protect against water intrusion or condensation are the cost of the device, closely followed by the consequences of it failing, especially while the vehicle is in operation or otherwise away from its home base. By these criteria, the traction inverter would warrant more attention (and budget allotment) to protecting it against damage from water than, say, the DC-DC converter that keeps the 12 V battery charged—the EV will likely be able to continue operating for some time on the charge remaining in its 12 V battery, just as an ICE-powered vehicle can keep going after its alternator has failed. An onboard charger occupies a middle position between the other two devices in that it is highly unlikely to fail while the vehicle is being driven, but would definitely leave a negative impression should it fail upon arriving at a remote destination without sufficient charge to make it back.

Another important consideration is whether the device will have to contend with other environmental hazards such as vibration and shock or even explosive gases (e.g. locomotives, EVs operated in mines).  This obviously weighs heavily on any onboard devices, like the inverter and DC-DC converter, but is less of a concern for something like a DC fast charger. Another similar consideration is how much of a temperature swing can be expected in going from quiescence to active operation and then back to quiescence, as it is during the cool-down phase that condensation tends to form. This can be an especially insidious issue for high-power devices like traction inverters and DC fast chargers—even if they were to achieve a near-mythical efficiency of 99%, that still means they would produce 1 kW of waste heat for every 100 kW of power handled, or about the same as a typical residential space heater.

One of the most popular (and obvious) ways to protect a device from contamination by dust or water is to seal it, and the two most common rating systems for describing how well-sealed an enclosure is are those published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), and the International Electrotechnical Commission (specifically, code IEC 60529). While there is some overlap between the two rating systems, they embody slightly different philosophies and therefore aren’t one-to-one analogous. A NEMA enclosure rating consists of a single number that describes resistance to contamination by physical objects and water intrusion, along with one or more optional letters that describe resistance to various other environmental hazards such as corrosion (X) or snow/ice (S). The IEC code separates resistance to penetration by physical objects of varying size (down to that of dust particles) and resistance to water intrusion into a two-number IP rating, for Ingress Protection, and in that order. One confusing aspect of both rating schemes is that a higher number generally, but not always, translates into a higher resistance to dust or water intrusion. For example, the most common NEMA ratings for enclosures used outside are 3 and 4, which means they are protected from dripping and sprayed water, respectively, whereas a NEMA 5 rating only guarantees dust resistance (that is, no water-resistance rating), while NEMA 6 is immersion-proof temporarily (or continuously, for 6P). Similarly, an IP rating of IP67 means the enclosure is both dust-tight and can withstand immersion in 1 m of water for 30 minutes, but can’t necessarily withstand jets of water sprayed directly at it (which is specified by a 6 for the second numeral), while IPn8 means no harm will come from immersion in up to 3 m of depth, but doesn’t actually require that water not make it inside. Confused already? Well, you’re not alone.

Sealing an enclosure obviously requires filling any gaps, seams or other penetrations (such as for wires, buttons, etc) with some kind of compliant material like a rubber gasket, bead of silicone caulk, etc, as such will accommodate any difference in the coefficients of thermal expansion between dissimilar materials. Sealing around wires or cables is a special headache all its own—gland nuts are specifically made to make a waterproof (or resistant, at least) pass-through for a cable, but they don’t necessarily prevent air slipping past, and air tends to carry water vapor with it.

Another thing that needs to be noted is that any sealant that cures through a chemical process (such as epoxy and silicone) might produce corrosive off-gases. For example, the two types of general-purpose silicone available at most hardware stores (and therefore likely to be used in a pinch) produce noxious, and potentially corrosive, off-gases—one emits methanol and ammonia during curing, and the other emits acetic acid. Of the two types, the acetic acid-emitting one is by far the worse, as it will corrode many metals. However, methanol will react with some plastics, and ammonia will discolor copper and some copper alloys (brasses and bronzes). Fortunately, there are “electronics- grade” silicones available which cure through different (though maddeningly proprietary) processes so as to not off-gas anything damaging to the typical materials used in electronic assemblies.

Another popular way of keeping water and other contaminants out is to protectively coat the internal surfaces.

Another popular way of keeping water (and other contaminants) out is to protectively coat the internal surfaces. This can be a conformal coating that is strategically applied to printed circuit boards and other areas with exposed solder, conductors, etc, by spraying or dipping, or the rather more drastic approach of filling the entire internal volume of an enclosure, which is called potting. There are a wide variety of coating and potting compounds available, and every last one has advantages and disadvantages relative to the rest. Note also that some compounds can be used for both potting and conformal coating—for example, silicones and epoxies—while others are really only used as coatings—such as acrylics and polyurethanes—and others still are only used for potting—the most notable example being asphalt. 

Parker LORD says that its CoolTherm® potting and encapsulants will improve performance by optimizing heat dissipation with high thermal conductivity and low viscosity. They also protect components from dust and moisture and help reduce vibration. CoolTherm materials are available in a variety of chemistries to fit many application needs.

As is the case with sealing the enclosure itself, a prime consideration in selecting a coating or potting material is how much compliance is needed to accommodate thermal expansion/contraction. However, additional factors that might complicate the decision process are whether the coating will be exposed to large potential differences (such as between the pins of a MOSFET) and/or high frequency and amplitude voltage changes (which can cause dielectric heating). Needless to say, conformal coating or potting has to be done closer to the end of the assembly process—and definitely after all interconnects are made—but a less obvious consideration is how much more difficult it will be to effect a repair later on; some coatings are relatively easy to remove either chemically or mechanically, like acrylic, while others can only be mechanically removed, like silicone, and some can’t be removed non-destructively without a heaping dose of luck, such as epoxy and polyurethane. Most of the time, sealing the enclosure and applying an acrylic-type conformal coating to the circuit boards will provide many years of service under harsh conditions, but if a higher dielectric strength is needed, then a spot application of silicone is usually a good choice. Potting should only be a last resort, and it only tends to make sense in very cost-sensitive devices that aren’t considered worth repairing (such as a golf-cart motor controller, which is where I’ve seen it used the most in the EV field).

The low price of silica gel is matched by relatively low performance, particularly in the absolute level of relative humidity that can be achieved (typically down to 40% RH or so), especially as ambient temperature exceeds 35° C.

Even with a belt-and-suspenders approach to keeping water vapor (or water) out of a device, there still might be a need to make sure condensation does not occur, and that is where passive or even active means of water removal come into play. By far the most common example of passive humidity control is the humble packet of silica gel, which is so cheap it can be included in a disposable bag of beef jerky. That low price is matched by relatively low performance, however, particularly in the absolute level of relative humidity that can be achieved (typically down to 40% RH or so), especially as ambient temperature exceeds 35° C. A desiccant which operates by a similar mechanism to silica gel—adsorption—but which can achieve much lower levels of relative humidity, even at higher ambient temperatures, is a molecular sieve, which is made from a clay-like material called zeolite, which is covered in tiny pores of just the right size to trap water molecules (“sieving” the water out of the air, then). One downside to molecular sieves is that they are much more friable than silica gel (that is, easier to pulverize into dust), so they might not be the best choice for onboard devices. Both silica gel and molecular sieves can be regenerated by baking at a high temperature for several hours, which drives off the adsorbed water, and both can be treated with a chemical that indicates when they need to be replaced or regenerated (a common indicator is cobalt chloride, which is blue when dry and pink when wet).

Finally, there are active humidity control methods, which could be a better choice when outside air is likely to make it into the equipment cabinet (for cooling, servicing, etc). The first approach is simply to heat the air inside the cabinet so that the temperature is always above the dew point. This could be done with a heater running all the time—maybe using a PTC (positive temperature coefficient) element so it semi-regulates its temperature—or by controlling it with either a thermostat, a humidistat (switches based on humidity level, rather than temperature), or both, so that the heater doesn’t run unnecessarily. The latter approach has been used with success on a DC fast charger, according to Stego, though it would be a tough sell to put any kind of active humidity control system inside any of the power electronics on an EV, and the additional battery drain would be unwelcome.  

For completeness, it should be mentioned that there are two other methods of actively controlling humidity—condensing it with a refrigeration system, or periodically regenerating one of the desiccants mentioned above, using externally-supplied hot air—and while these approaches are incredibly effective, they also take up way too much space (and are too expensive) to consider using on even a large piece of equipment like a DC fast charger, much less on an EV itself. Still, if you need to bring the dew point down to where dry ice can’t precipitate water out of the air, then those last two methods are the only way to go.  

This article appeared in Charged Issue 55 – May/June 2021 – Subscribe now.

Atom Power expands into EV charging with digital circuit breaker technology

Circuit breakers are everywhere, providing critically important electrical safety in buildings, vehicles and electrical devices of all kinds. However, this mechanical technology has remained mostly unchanged for a century.

Atom Power believes that this lack of innovation is hindering the clean-energy transition, and that digitizing power systems to enable smart communication between electrical sources and end-use equipment is essential. The company commercialized a UL-listed solid-state digital circuit breaker in 2019. Now it is expanding into two new markets: EV charging and residential energy automation.

Atom Power’s suite of smart electrical products includes a digital circuit breaker, a customizable distribution panel and a personalized software solution that enables control and customization of electrical infrastructure both for buildings and EV applications.

According to Atom Power, EVs can be charged directly from their circuit breakers, enabling digital control with flexible installation solutions while also delivering power and capacity optimization to the building owner and the grid.

Atom says its digital circuit breaker technology can deliver cost savings of up to 50 percent to EV fleet operators by centralizing power management and reducing equipment and maintenance costs.

Atom Power is ready to deploy its EV charging solution in the third quarter of 2021. This solution is designed to reduce the risk of costly damage to charging pedestals. The technology that charges the vehicle resides in the electrical panel and digital circuit breaker, and the charging pedestal does not contain high-tech electronics—it is simply a metal tube with a charge plug and cable.  

The residential circuit breakers, which will allow for connectivity, monitoring, controllability and digital access to a home’s power, will be available in fall 2022. Atom says its residential circuit breakers can be installed in all new residential properties, and in 80 percent of existing home electrical panels in North America.

Both solutions eliminate the need to purchase additional meters, controls, communications and software, as Atom embeds all of these features within its circuit breakers.

Atom’s digital circuit breakers are controlled and monitored on a smartphone or computer—users can virtually see the electrical panel and each circuit breaker on their screens, allowing them to remotely turn devices on and off, and even change the physical characters of a circuit breaker with software. For example, a user can change a 100-amp circuit breaker to 90, 70, 60 or 15 amps using the app.

“As more distributed energy resources like solar and battery storage devices power the grid, and more people and businesses adopt electric vehicles, there is a growing and critical need to better manage power at the edge of the grid, particularly in our homes,” said Ryan Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of Atom Power. “Our fully digital circuit breaker can seamlessly manage the variability that comes with renewable resources and increased EV charging without disrupting our quality of life.”

Source: Atom Power

New charging plaza in Pasadena to add 26 DC fast chargers, including Tesla Superchargers

Following the May 2020 launch of the Marengo Charging Plaza, the City of Pasadena, California is planning another large public fast charging stations. The new Arroyo Parkway Charging Depot, located near the beginning of the 110 Freeway, will include some 26 DC fast charging stations, some of which will be Tesla Superchargers.

Design and engineering firm Stantec will assist with the design of the DC fast chargers, and will also be responsible for engineering the power switch gear, associated structural engineering, and permitting.

Stantec provides siting, electrical, civil, survey, and structural design services for EVSE projects. The Arroyo Parkway Charging Depot is one of several projects the company is delivering in California. The firm recently completed the design for the installation of 27 charging stations in Rochester, New York, and is also assisting two EV developers with the rollout of DC charging stations at 120 locations in Canada.

Source: Stantec

Eviation unveils production version of all-electric Alice aircraft, prepares for inaugural flight

Electric aircraft manufacturer Eviation Aircraft has unveiled the design for its Alice all-electric plane. The production configuration, optimized based on real-world lessons learned and customer feedback, will define Alice’s path to its first flight later this year, to be followed by certification and entry into service, which is expected in 2024.

Alice, a nine-passenger, two-crew-member aircraft, is powered by two magni650 electric propulsion units from electric propulsion system manufacturer magniX. The fly-by-wire system is made by Honeywell.

Eviation stresses that Alice’s battery system is made from currently available battery cells, and is not reliant on future advances. The e-plane uses proven technologies and design elements—the aim is to make it easy for pilots to seamlessly transition to flying the Alice, accelerating its path to market.

In June 2019, after Alice’s unveiling in Paris, Eviation secured its first buyer: Cape Air, a regional carrier in New England. Eviation is on track to deliver its first Alices to Cape Air in 2022, and the airline expects to bring the new e-plane into commercial service in 2024.

Alice is built for regional flights up to 650 miles at a cruising speed of 276 mph. That’s considerably slower than today’s fossil-fueled planes, but Eviation points out that electric planes like Alice are much quieter than commercial jet aircraft, and can use shorter runways. These advantages could enable them to use smaller airports that are closer to travelers’ final destinations.

And of course, there is a cost advantage. “I think it’s important that the industry makes itself more sustainable in terms of emissions, but it needs to work economically,” says Eviation CEO Omer Bar-Yohay. “Alice costs about $200 per flight hour to operate. A turboprop with similar performance costs between $1,200 and $2,000 per flight hour, meaning ticket prices for Alice could be substantially less than those for conventional aircraft. Lots of people might be delighted to add an hour or two to their flight if they can fly for half the money.”

“Alice is a beautiful aircraft and represents the future of flying, plain and simple,” said Eviation Executive Chairman Roei Ganzarski. “Add in zero emissions, less noise, and significantly lower operating costs, and communities will be connected like never before, starting sooner than you think.”

Sources: Eviation, CleanTechnica