Charging stations and electric cars: a closely connected future
An increasing number of car manufacturers are investing in electrical technology, both as a result of the numerous aftermaths left by the diesel affair, and (hopefully) due to a need for awareness that the increasingly frequent alarms and traffic blocks caused by high concentrations of smog now represent an emergency no longer deferrable.
The most optimistic goal would be to replace traditional propulsion with electric propulsion. Something seems to be moving, given the increasing presence of electric and hybrid cars on the roads and the increase in the number of charging stations.
⚡ The success of the electric car is in any case inevitably linked to the widespread distribution of the charging stations, without which this clean technology will not be able to reach such a degree of development as to bring the benefits that we all hope.
How an electric car works
The electric motor, conceived and then perfected starting from 1800, uses the electrical energy accumulated by the battery, converting it into mechanical energy. This energy is transferred to the engine thanks to the inverter, a device capable of transforming the direct current of the accumulator into alternating current.
➡️ The electric car is still at an early stage, but many people agree that it could spread more quickly than we expect.
➡️ According to data from Unrae (National Union of Foreign Vehicle Representatives) relating to 2018, we are witnessing a sharp decline in diesel and LPG fuels, while gasoline, methane and hybrid fuels are growing. But the most interesting figure is the increase of almost 300% of electric cars which, according to Unrae, could lead the same electric and hybrid vehicles to reach an overall share of about 50% of sales in 2030.
These results will be possible only with important investments in innovation and modernization of the infrastructures, as well as with the improvement of electric technology and batteries (mostly lithium), which currently represent the real obstacle to be overcome, especially about autonomy, recharge and decay speed.
Recharge an electric car
Electric car manufacturers are increasingly refining batteries to ensure greater autonomy and faster charging.
➡️ As for the models equipped with lithium batteries, it is possible to cover an average of 200 to 400 km without recharging, also in relation to the driving style.
One of the cars that for example can guarantee an excellent ratio between autonomy and recharge cost is the Tesla Model S, which can travel up to 600 km with a full tank of € 40 (about € 0.067 per km).
➡️ As mentioned above, the charging time is also one of the discriminating factors. According to some estimates, a full recharge would be needed on average from 4 to 8 hours, based on the power in kW with which it is recharged and the maximum power of the car charger.
➡️ As for the life span, according to the experts, a first battery decay could occur around 30 thousand km and then settle down, still guaranteeing a capacity between 90% and 95%, even reached and exceeded 200 thousand km.
The number of charging stations installed in our area is still quite small, even if the energy suppliers are finalizing agreements and intervention plans to reach a much more widespread distribution in three types of areas:
- points of interest (shopping centres, supermarkets);
- urban roads and public parking lots;
- highways and extra-urban roads.
➡️ The presence of columns in extra-urban environments, especially on highways, is on the rise. But at the current state in Italy they are still insufficient in number. According to the “Corriere della Sera”, in Italy there is one for every 14,388 inhabitants, in Germany one for every 3,620 and in Norway for every 671.
One of the most important differences concerns the rate at which electricity is sold during charging:
- based on the energy withdrawn (€/kWh);
- based on the dwell time (€/minute).
⚡ However, there are systems, such as Smart Parking Systems, capable of integrating parking management and charging stations, through special management software designed to allow managers and administrators real-time control over the use of the lot or of the area used for recharge, and possibly intervene in case of violations.
Projects for the future
The electric power supply for cars is a reality that is becoming increasingly popular and that over the next few years will benefit from new and continuous improvements, which will make it increasingly efficient and reliable.
⚡ The “FastCharge” project, for example, financed by the German Government in collaboration with BMW and Porsche (supported by specialized companies in the sector) has enabled the construction of an experimental charging station in Bavaria, an ultra-fast 450 kW one, which is equivalent to say up to nine times faster than those already installed in Europe (which guarantee between 50 and 150 kW).
The system can adapt independently to the maximum recharging capacity of each car and is able to bring the autonomy of two BMW and Porsche models from 0 to 100 km in about 3 minutes.
⚡ Another solution is wireless charging, exploiting the inductive technology, even if it is still not widespread due to its low efficiency caused by the lack of power and speed.
⚡ “Charge While Driving” is instead a system conceived and presented by the Polytechnic University of Turin that provides for the installation of inductive plates in the road pavement, in areas of high flow and that would allow the recharging of one’s electric car during the journey, reducing to zero the waiting time. Obviously, the project requires a series of important structural investments.
⚡ Finally, the Bolognese start-up Bettery, with the Nessox project (New Semi-Solid flow lithium Oxygen Battery), is studying a fluid loaded with electricity to be introduced into the car, through a simple fuel pump. The liquid once “unloaded” can be reused for a new refill.
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