California extends lead in HDV charging rollout
Progress on meeting charging needs of truck fleets, but the potential for another standards war clouds the horizon
California is, perhaps unsurprisingly, leading the way in accelerating rollout of truck charging stations in the US. But positive progress in the state and elsewhere belies a rumbling row about standards for charging medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MDVs and HDVs).
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Regulator the California Energy Commission estimates that, on top of charging infrastructure for light-duty vehicles, “an additional 157,000 chargers are needed to support the 180,000 MDVs and HDVs anticipated for 2030”.
California’s logistics industry, based largely around the Los Angeles port, is prime ground to target the replacement of ICE commercial vehicles with EV equivalents. The majority of this logistics industry is handled by class four vehicles or above, a categorisation of heavy-duty trucks.
And vehicles in class four or higher have been the focus of many state-government incentive programmes. The On-Road Heavy-Duty Voucher Incentive Program (VIP) is a scheme offered by the California Air Resources Board, which provides funding of up to $410,000 to fleet operators to replace up to ten HDVs with zero-emissions replacements. The VIP offers grants to replace vehicles weighing over 14,000lbs, the threshold for class four.
The typical journeys driven by polluting ICE trucks are easily replaceable by EV trucks already available. “Many of these trucks are on drayage operations, taking containers from the ports to warehouses. These are almost always short trips under 150 miles and are easy for electric trucks available today to handle,” says James Carter, principal consultant at new mobility consultancy Vision Mobility.
“With recently announced investments in the industry, my belief is that total actual and proposed investment is well north of $1bn,” Carter continues.
In June, e-truck and charging provider Forum Mobility announced plans for a new 96-truck charging station in Livermore, California, which will be state’s largest. “For heavy-duty trucks, which cannot access 99.9pc of the chargers installed today, having a purpose-built facility like this one gives people the certainty that they can get their truck charged every single day,” said Forum CEO Matt LeDucq at the time of the announcement.
But, just as the US LDV market experienced what was termed a ‘standards war’ earlier in the year as several OEMS abandoned support for the CCS protocol championed by the Charging Interface Initiative Association, or CharIn, taskforce of cross-industry stakeholders, which had been the de facto industry standard in favour of the North American Charging Standard (NACS) used by US OEM Tesla in its supercharger network, a potentially similar clash is brewing for HDV charging.
CharIn is developing the Megawatt Charging System (MCS) standard, aimed at facilitating charging at up to 1250V and 3000A, leading to quicker charging times for larger batteries, and which can be used via a converter with current CCS connectors. Compared to the current CCS charging standard, which can reach up to 350kW, CharIN says MCS aims to hit 1MW.
“Not just the truck industry will benefit from this solution. Other applications like maritime and air vessels may use this charging system to fulfil their needs, too,” CharIn says.
But, at the end of June, US battery maker NXU announced it was quitting its CharIn as it prepared to start field testing its own megawatt charging solution, which it promises will be able to deliver 1.5MW of continuous power. It notes that final publication of the MCS standard is not expected by CharIn until 2024, while OEM’s adoption of NACS by OEMs “underscores the urgent need for reliable and high-powered charging solutions to meet growing demand across all market segments”.
“In today's fast-paced world, customers demand immediate solutions, making it all the more imperative for innovative players like NXU to introduce new solutions that do not compromise the competitive goals of EV vehicle manufacturers,” says the firm’s CEO Mark Hanchett. “The industry is moving at a rapid pace with zero tolerance for outdated standards.”
The LDV standards war was mercifully short in duration, assuming the new seven-OEM-strong charging joint venture announced with scant detail in late July does not reignite it. We can only hope an acceptable solution that does not slow down the requisite development of US HDV charging is also swiftly achieved.