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Next-gen heavy duty truck charging

31 March 2024

Global efforts to decarbonise medium- and heavy-duty (MHD) freight vehicles are crucial for reducing transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions with the medium- to heavy-duty electric truck market forecast to reach NZ$335 billion (US$207b) by 2044.

So says IDTechEx in its report Electric and Fuel Cell Trucks 2024-2044: Markets, Technologies, and Forecasts, by IDTechEx senior technology analyst Shazan Siddiqi. These vehicles, pivotal to economies worldwide, emit significant GHGs and criteria pollutants, often impacting vulnerable communities, he says.

“Fortunately, a growing array of technologies can eliminate tailpipe emissions and reduce the overall carbon footprint of MHD vehicles. “Currently, over 160 models of zero-emission trucks are available from more than 40 original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) – benchmarked on various performance metrics in IDTechEx’s latest report.

“Most commercial vehicle charging today is limited to between 150 and 350kW. “While charging at this level meets the needs of many fleets, as the use of commercial battery electric vehicles expands there will be use cases that will benefit from higher-powered charging, adding hundreds of miles of range to a heavy- duty truck during a rest break.”

IDTechEx research finds that the megawatt charging system (MCS) presents opportunities and challenges of moving to much faster charging speeds but predicts that it will become the exclusive commercial vehicle charging standard. “The MCS associated voltage cap is 1250V, so it is evident that higher charging powers are achieved by higher current and not voltage for commercial vehicles,” the report says. “MCS increases current by 600% and voltage by 20%, and this brings about new thermal management challenges.

“Active cooling of the cable and connector is required, and at power levels over 3MW, the vehicle inlet will also require cooling. Additional challenges also exist. Truck OEMs buying battery packs from third-party suppliers need to make sure voltage requirements meet the specs of MCS.

“Furthermore, supplying power to the site of groups of these chargers can be challenging, specifically with long lead times on interconnection agreements, transformers, and permits, as well as demand fees.”

IDTechEx says that while MCS will become the standard in Europe and the US, in China co-developers China Electricity Council, and Chademo’s “ultra ChaoJi” are developing a charging standard for heavy-duty electric vehicles for up to 1.8MW. It says battery swapping is increasing in the Chinese truck market.

Battery swapping has the shortest charging downtimes (three to six minutes) of all charging strategies, the report says. “For many Chinese trucks, the battery is behind the cab, in a swappable box that can be lifted and moved to the side.

“Almost all heavy swap-capable trucks in China use a CATL 282kWh LFP pack (weighing 3.2 tonnes), which has helped solve the issue of standardisation when trying to implement swapping. Swap-capable electric trucks are mainly used for short-haul applications (less than 100km) at ports, mining sites, and in urban logistics that require a quick turnaround time”.

“Battery swapping in China is a product of increased policies – targets laid out by the central government and subsidies provided for swap station construction (up to 15%) by the local government help alleviate the issues around high capital costs associated with large swapping stations.” IDTechEx research finds that battery- swapping trucks are now taking up about 50% of the electric truck market in China.

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Source: transporttalk