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Tritium opens new world-class R&D centre
New EV charging developments to push emissions-free motoring to the mainstream
7 May 2019
By TUNG NGUYEN
AUSTRALIAN technology company Tritium opened the world’s largest electric-vehicle fast-charging research and development centre at its Brisbane headquarters last week, which will drive new innovations for a quicker and easier transition to electrified motoring.
Dubbed the E-Mobility Innovation Centre, the new facility will focus on increasing production rates and enabling a faster time to market for Tritium’s vehicle recharging technologies.
These include the Veefil-RT 50kW DC Fast Charger that is already in use in 29 countries around the world and the newer Veefil-PK 350kW DC High Power Charger that can provide around 350km of driving range to compatible EVs in around 10 minutes.
In an interview with GoAuto, Tritium chief technology officer and co-founder James Kennedy predicted that high-powered recharging stations will be the turning point for mass-market EV adoption in Australia.
“That high-powered charging, it’s really not hype to say it’s a game-changer,” he said.
“Currently, on the standard chargers which are 50kW, for a high-end vehicle with a large battery pack like an Audi or something, it will be a two-hour charge time, and a high-powered charger will bring that down to 10 minutes.
“Suddenly the long-distance travel seems like a possibility, but it is also a bit of a game-changer in that the entire demographic of people that can’t really buy an EV at the moment, which are those that park on the street.
“At the moment, if you can’t charge your EV at home, you can’t really buy an EV.
“If you maintain that petrol-station mentality, which is what you are going to have with high-powered charging, you can stop somewhere once a week for 10 minutes, charge your car, and get back up and running again.
“This shift up to high-powered charging will really open up the market.”
The first vehicle confirmed to support such high-powered charging is the Porsche Taycan, which is due to launch in Australian showrooms in 2020, and the technology is expected to proliferate across other high-end Volkswagen Group battery-electric vehicles such as the Audi e-tron GT.
In terms of infrastructure rollout, Mr Kennedy said the current framework of establishing a high-powered home charger may give way to centralised recharging locations, similar to how petrol stations currently function as the go-to refuelling point.
He said that once sales of electrified vehicles in Australia take off, and the percentage of EV sales pushed up to, say, eight per cent, there would eventually be millions of AC charging points in garages and other private locations, all costing money to install and operate – “and that adds up to a large amount”.
“Whereas if you can centralise that infrastructure and put a petrol-station-type equivalent, despite them being relatively expensive, you’re going to have a lot less obstacles,” Mr Kennedy said.
“You start thinking about it from a national efficiency point of view, and it’s going to be interesting to think about which way is going to be the right way to do it.
“A lot of people of the general public, not the enthusiasts or the early adopters, will only really want one when they see that petrol-station-type infrastructure because that’s how they are used to fuelling their car, they don’t want to do anything differently for an EV.
“I think, again, that that petrol-station charging is really key to a lot of this stuff.”
While high-powered stations are yet to hit mass-market adoption, Tritium is already looking ahead to even faster chargers that could potentially draw power straight from the electricity grid, with research underway thanks to a $A569,300 grant awarded from the US Department of Energy.
Across its global operations, which includes a similar facility in Amsterdam that was also officially opened last week, Tritium employs more than 300 people, split equally between R&D and engineering teams, and executive, sales and marketing staff.
Mr Kennedy said that, up until recently, the company was “adding an engineer to the team every week, on average”.
“In engineering circles, this growth rate is unheard of, but as Tritium continues to expand, this rate of growth is absolutely necessary to cater to demand for DC fast-charging and high-power charging,” he said.
He said the Amsterdam centre was “developed with the needs of the European automotive industry in mind and it’s now being used by OEMs on a daily basis”.
“Previously, testing had to be carried out at various automotive festivals, or we would have to deliver temporary chargers across borders, in some cases to manufacturers, and seek their return at a later date. The process was cumbersome and hindered innovation,” Mr Kennedy said.
“With the new innovation centre, automotive OEMs now have a base in Europe at which they can work alongside Tritium engineers to solve issues and develop and test all aspects of battery and charger interoperability, including communications and other technical advances inherent in the next wave of EVs.”
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