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ABB Develops DC Backbone for High-Power EV Chargers

ABB is engaged in a collaborative R&D project with North Carolina State University to develop the underlying power systems required to support rapid charging of electric vehicles. 

“Having delivered the highest power (350 kW) public fast charger in the world earlier this year, ABB is now exploring the next frontier of high power fast charging,” says Frank Muehlon, managing director for electric vehicle charging infrastructure at ABB. “To reach the point where charging time is comparable to today’s fueling process, we need to explore new power distribution concepts that are flexible and scalable but also simple and efficient.”

The solution lies in a direct current (DC) system architecture, which meets these challenges and also improves overall system efficiency thanks to requiring fewer power conversion stages compared to today’s fast chargers, according to ABB. The result will be a power distribution system that can support the proliferation of high-power EV charging stations.

The project is funded by the Vehicle Technology Office (VTO) of the U.S. Department of Energy and follows related work ABB and NCSU have done on EV charging technology.

In the three-year project, which started in October 2018, ABB will work closely with NCSU on developing and demonstrating novel ideas such as high power density rectifiers, battery storage and DC/DC converters for fast EV charging.

ABB and NCSU have a 20-plus year research collaboration history in the energy sector. ABB supported the establishment and later growth of power electronics and electrical systems research at NC State and is a member of the NCSU Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management (FREEDM) center that was created in 2008. The two entities have worked together extensively on topics like medium- and low-voltage DC power, solar energy, EV chargers, drives and more. The US arm of ABB’s Global Corporate Research Center is located at NC State‘s Centennial Campus and several NCSU alumni are presently employed with ABB.

Srdjan Lukic, NCSU professor and project lead says his university is very happy with ABB’s long-standing commitment and support for NCSU research in the energy sector.

"We see this VTO-funded high power electrical vehicle fast charging infrastructure project as a key milestone in this collaboration," Lukic says. 

ABB also has a long-standing relationship with U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) on advanced power electronics, including the use of wide band gap devices like Silicon Carbide (SiC) and Gallium Nitride (GaN) in a host of ABB applications as well as solid-state based DC protection technologies. ABB is also a founding member of $70 million DoE-funded Power America Institute that advances commercialization of wide band gap power electronics in the United States manufacturing industry. Its headquarters is hosted at the NCSU campus in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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