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Volvo tests new EV fast-charge system

Six times faster: Volvo claims the new three-phase fast-charger it is testing on the C30 Electric is six times faster than today’s onboard devices.

World-first three-phase onboard fast-charger hits the road in Volvo’s C30 Electric

Volvo logo9 Nov 2012

VOLVO Car Corporation is testing a new fast-charger for electric vehicles that it says operates six times faster than current onboard devices.

Along with the limited range, one of the biggest drawbacks levelled at electric cars, particularly in overseas markets where sales have taken off at a much faster rate, is the time it takes to recharge an EV’s battery pack.

Volvo claims its new system, which is billed as the world’s first three-phase onboard charger, will enable drivers to easily replenish battery power to give “more usable hours each day” and in turn make the electric vehicle industry “more viable as a commercial proposition”.

As with most current-generation EVs, Volvo’s C30 Electric, which will pilot the new technology, requires eight to 10 hours for its 24kWh lithium-ion batteries to be fully recharged from a typical domestic single-phase 240-volt 10-amp power outlet, depending on the available current.

A 15-amp ‘Level 2’ charging outlet can be installed by an electrician to increase charging times in Australia, while heavy-duty fast-charge three-phase electrical outlets (Level 3/4) are available at select locations.

Nissan, for example, provides a rapid-charge service for the Leaf EV at its small cluster of specialist dealers in major metropolitan centres around Australia.

 center imageLeft: Volvo’s vice-president of electric propulsion systems, Lennart Stegland.

Volvo’s 22kW ‘flexible’ fast-charger said to be the first onboard recharging system to operate on a three-phase supply and is small enough to be fitted into an electric passenger car.

This enables the C30 Electric to be recharged with a three-phase 32-amp 400-volt outlet to achieve an 80km range in a claimed 30 minutes, with a full charge taking 1.5 hours for 120-150km.

It can also still be recharged via a regular single-phase 230/240-volt household outlet over eight or more hours.

Volvo Car Corporation’s vice-president of electric propulsion systems, Lennart Stegland, said the fast-charging unit helps cure ‘range anxiety’ since the vehicle can be more easily recharged during the day.

“We know that short recharging times and extensive operating range are a necessity for potential electric car consumers,” he said.

“Even if you don’t have enough time for a 1.5-hour charge, plugging in for just 30 minutes will give you enough power for another 80km of driving.

“The user can ‘top up’ the battery pack with electricity one or more times during the day. This means that the total daily range is significantly extended, yet with the same low operating cost compared to a car with a conventional powertrain.

“Giving customers more usable hours each day means that electric cars become more viable as a commercial proposition, in both the private and public sectors,” he said.

As GoAuto has reported, Volvo has produced around 250 C30 Electrics to test the technology and customer reaction in real-world conditions in several European countries, plus China and the United States.

With C30 production scheduled to end at the company’s factory in Ghent, Belgium, at the end of this year, the constantly evolving technology – including the onboard fast-charge system – is expected to be transferred to a full-electric version of the forthcoming all-new V40.

The company is still to confirm a V40 EV project, leaving the longer-range V60 plug-in hybrid as its main commercial program in the electrified vehicle arena.

The Swedish manufacturer also confirmed to GoAuto earlier this year that the replacement for the current XC90 SUV would include a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

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