Mega Push for Heavy-Duty EV Charging

An upcoming megawatt charging standard and accompanying 1+ MW chargers try to keep pace with the rising number of electric trucks coming to market.

Daimler Trucks’ new “future-proof” charging site will allow current chargers to be replaced with new technologies as they’re released, including the planned 1+ MW chargers. (DTNA)

The number of zero-emission (ZE) heavy-duty trucks in the U.S., Canada, China and Europe is expected to increase nearly 80% between 2020 and 2023, from 40 available or announced models to 71. Electric commercial vehicles in those same regions are projected to reach 606 models by 2023, up nearly 30% from the 468 models on the market in 2020.

WattEV plans to open the first 25-megawatt, electric-only public truck stop in Bakersfield, California. (WattEV)

“The pace of battery technology advancement is happening faster than we thought and battery costs are also dropping faster than anticipated. As a result, newly available zero-emission trucks generally and heavy-duty zero-emission trucks in particular are shifting toward commercialization at an accelerating pace,” said Dr. Cristiano Façanha, global director of CALSTART’s Global Commercial Vehicle Drive to Zero program.

WattEV already has reserved 50 Tesla Semis for its Trucks as a Service (TaaS) business model. (Tesla)

Singling out the U.S. market, Drive to Zero’s Zero-Emission Technology Inventory (ZETI) online tool anticipates an even sharper uptick in available ZE heavy-duty truck models – from eight in 2020 to 28 in 2023, or a 250% bump. Driving range of electric trucks also is increasing. Many available ZE heavy-duty trucks are capable of driving 300 km (186 miles) on a single charge. The next round of electric trucks, available this year and next, will see models capable of traveling closer to 600 km (373 miles) on a charge, and 1000-km (621-mile) range is promised. Elon Musk, for example, has stated the Tesla Semi, production of which has been delayed again to 2022, could approach that target.

To accommodate this accelerating market, a network of “megacharger” stations suitable for charging heavy-duty commercial vehicles must be established. The CharIN Megawatt Charging System (MCS) standard, which complies with the SAE J1772-based combined charging system (CCS), is focused on Class 6-8 commercial vehicles with “huge battery packs” and the ability to accept a >1 MW charge rate. The MCS task force plans to finish a complete requirements and specification document including the plug geometry by the end of 2021.

Daimler’s “Electric Island” site in Oregon features eight charging stations suitable for electric cars, buses, box vans and semi-trucks. (DTNA)

A California-based startup announced plans in May to build what it claims is the nation’s first 25-megawatt, electric-only public truck stop to serve transport at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley. WattEV’s pilot truck stop in Bakersfield will feature a solar micro-grid with battery storage, plus grid energy from PG&E. Initial output will be 4 MW, eventually growing to 25 MW feeding more than 40 charging bays.

WattEV also has developed a Trucks as a Service (TaaS) business model to help accelerate the adoption of electric trucks. The startup already has reserved its first 50 Tesla Semis and plans to place more orders with other OEMs. “We aim to enable the addition of 12,000 heavy-duty battery-electric trucks to the roads in California by the end of 2030, exceeding existing forecasts,” said WattEV CEO Salim Youssefzadeh. “If it works in California, it’ll work just about anywhere in the country.”

One OEM recently opened a “first-of-its-kind” heavy-duty electric truck charging site available to the public for all levels of EV charging. Working with Portland General Electric, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) opened the “Electric Island” site with eight charging stations suitable for electric cars, buses, box vans and semi-trucks. Located across the street from DTNA headquarters, less than one mile from I-5, the site’s “future-proof” design will allow current chargers to be replaced with new technologies as they are released, including the planned 1+ MW chargers.

Electric Island also serves as an innovation center for PGE and DTNA to study energy management, charger use and vehicle performance. The site will inform efforts such as integration of heavy-duty charging technology into PGE’s smart grid, second-life use of Daimler’s battery packs, and onsite energy generation.

As Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s director of charging infrastructure planning and business development, said in a recent Q&A, expect more announcements on this “mega” topic soon.