TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan -- To gauge consumer demand for electric vehicles, most analysts focus on the cost and range of vehicle battery packs. But Continental believes market interest is more dependent on battery charging systems.
According to Continental, the problem with demand is that public charging stations are a patchwork of incompatible technologies, said Kregg Wiggins, Continental’s senior vice president of North American powertrains.
Some stations might have slow AC chargers, while others might have high-speed DC chargers for which some vehicle are not equipped.
These disparate charging systems may scare off potential customers who have with range anxiety, Wiggins said Tuesday at the seminars.
To solve the problem, Continental has designed an onboard charging system that can accommodate a single-phase AC charger, a three-phase AC charger or a high-speed DC charger, Wiggins said.
The system creates a new function for an EV electric motor and inverter. With the addition of a DC/DC converter, these components can be programmed to handle charging as well.
The system will allow any EV to plug into a DC or AC charger, and it will allow the motorist to use the vehicle to recharge other electrical devices such as laptops, electric tools or refrigerators.
Continental’s r&d work on charging systems comes as the U.S. EV market is beginning to gain momentum. By 2025, Continental expects EVs to account for 10 percent of sales, up from about 1 percent today.
But the U.S. recharging network isn’t ready for mass-market EVs. Today, the U.S. has about 823,000 charging systems — mostly AC chargers for household use. By 2023, Wiggins expects 5.5 million charging systems.
The problem, Wiggins notes, is that EVs are often incompatible with public charging systems. “It’s like having a gas station that can refuel BMWs but not Toyotas,” Wiggins said. “That’s why we feel compatibility is so important.”