Eaton jumps into vehicle recharging game

  • 08-Oct-2010 04:34 EDT
Eaton MiEV.jpg

The all-electric Mitsubishi i-MiEV is shown hooked up to Eaton's Pow-R-Station dc quick charger during a 2010 evaluation in California.

A company with a 20-year track record of developing electric and hybrid power systems for trucks and buses is providing a means for charging battery packs on passenger EVs.

Eaton's Level 2 charger is the first in-house-designed product for the North American marketplace from the Electric Transportation Infrastructure business unit, a new focus within Eaton's Electrical division.

"We pulled resources from various Eaton engineering groups to develop this Level 2 charger, an ac device that is easy to use," said Tim Old, Eaton's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Business Unit Manager.

The first installation of Eaton's Level 2 charger is slated for this month.

Compliant with the SAE J1772 standard for the plug and vehicle receptacle, the Level 2 charger is compatible with Nissan's Leaf, Mitsubishi's i-MiEV, and Chevrolet's Volt.

A four- to six-hour Level 2 charge of a lithium-ion battery in a typical all-electric vehicle takes the battery pack to 80% percent, "which is going to get the batteries to the driving range quoted by the vehicle manufacturers," said Old. (80% capacity is the industry-standard measurement for speed of charge).

Eaton is also selling a charging unit that uses dc technology, which allows for much faster recharging than ac technology

"We have the exclusive North American license rights to dc quick charger designs from Japan's Takaoka Electric Manufacturing Co.," said Old. The charger, which restores the batteries to 80% of full power in 20 to 30 min, will be refitted with specific components to make it UL-compliant.

"Eaton has the capability to design a dc charger in-house, but we decided this wasn't the best route. We would have spent time doing testing and validation, and that likely would have delayed the product coming to market possibly by as long as two years," explained Old.

Within the next year, Eaton's Pow-R-Station dc quick charger will be assembled at the company's Ashville, NC, plant. U.S.-based production will enable technical specialists to take a localized approach to future product development—similar to how product changes are handled at each of Eaton's 18 power distribution equipment customization centers in North America.

"Each customization center has 50 to 100 or more people—including application engineers—on-site to adapt to changes needed for a particular region. That's the approach we'll take with modification to the chargers as market needs are better defined and evolved," said Old.

The quick charger is compatible with Mitsubishi's i-MiEV and Nissan's Leaf. A demonstration project for the charger is being done in cooperation with Murphy Oil USA. "The possibilities are far-reaching," said Old, as Murphy Oil USA has more than 1000 retail gasoline filling stations in 22 states.

Eaton's involvement in a smart grid demonstration project with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and the Tennessee Valley Authority spotlights a solar-assisted charging station being built on the grounds of EPRI's research facility in Knoxville, TN.

The station will include ac Level 2 electric vehicle supply equipment, a canopy with integrated solar panels, and on-site battery energy storage, according to Brandon Rogers, Senior R&D Engineer, Emerging Technologies & Markets, Eaton.

When the station becomes operational in late 2010 or early 2011, the batteries and solar panels will "provide a renewable power source to supplement the grid power used to charge the vehicles," said Rogers. "The station is designed to support six vehicles at once. However, other implementations are currently in the works to support as many as 25 vehicles at once."

The prototype solar-assisted charging station will provide a roadmap of data, including information on energy usage, the amount of solar-generated electricity produced and stored, and load cluster impacts that could occur when several vehicles are online simultaneously.

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