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When it comes to electric vehicles, there’s been a lot of talk about the need for things like critical minerals to build lithium batteries and semiconductors to support operating systems — as well as a robust charging infrastructure to keep them on the road.

For smaller vehicles, progress is being made in the charging department, but as we said in our post last week, the charging infrastructure for electric semi-trucks is facing a major lag. As we noted in the article, one company that’s aiming to change that is TeraWatt Infrastructure, which says future-proofing will be an important factor when it comes to developing an effective charging infrastructure for big rigs.

Specifically, when the MegaWatt Charging System (MCS) becomes widely available in the next few years, the company notes that current charging systems will need to be updated to optimize charging efficiency.

Fortunately, one multi-industry group says the transition to the MCS can be “smooth and easy” for those who plan ahead.

What is the MSC?

In 2018, CharIN initiated the Megawatt Charging System Task Force to “Work out requirements for a new commercial vehicle high power charging solution to maximize customer flexibility when using fully electric commercial vehicles. …”

Representing the “whole value chain of the Heavy Duty Vehicles industry segment,” the Task Force is now also part of the CharIN “Charging Connection” Focus Group to address the future needs of light electric airplanes, ferries, and other marine vessels that make the electric transition.

CharIN is a Berlin-based association formed by Audi, BMW, Daimler, Mennekes, Opel, Phoenix Contact, Porsche, TÜV SÜD and Volkswagen in 2015 to promote the use of the Combined Charging System (CCS) as the standard for charging all kinds of battery-powered electric vehicles worldwide.

Since then, CharIN’s membership has grown significantly. Currently, the association has 181 core members, 142 regular members, and 2 associate members.

CharIN says the MCS:

  • “Focuses on Class 6, 7, & 8 commercial vehicles, but could easily be used for buses, aircrafts, or other large battery electric vehicles (BEVs) with huge battery packs and ability to accept a >1MW charge rate”

  • “Shall comply with the holistic system approach” of the CCS

Rapid progress

Over the past several years, rapid progress has been made in the development of the MCS.

NREL connector test event

The CharIN website notes that in September 2020, a successful MCS connector test event was held at the facilities of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that allowed “cross-industry representatives” to test and provide feedback about the compatibility of inlet and connectors for megawatt chargers.

“This event enabled seven vehicle inlets and eleven charger connectors to test their designs together,” according to CharIN. “…Features like the fit, the ergonomics, the easy connection and disconnection, and the thermal performance of the connectors and inlets were tested and evaluated by the participants. …”

The goal of the event and follow-up evaluation by the MCS Task Force was to “support the creation of a global Megawatt Charging System (MCS) standard to ensure the compatibility of connectors and inlet hardware from different manufacturers.”

First-of-its-kind Electric Island

In December 2020, Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) announced the co-development of “Electric Island,” which is a “large public charging site for medium- and heavy-duty electric commercial vehicles expected to be the first of its kind in the United States.”

Within its description of the project, CharIN provides this “CharIN MCS Construction Layout” (pdf) on its website.

The following April, the site opened for public charging.

“Electric Island opens with eight vehicle charging stations (a majority of which are available for public use) for the charging of electric cars, buses, box vans and semi-trucks,” the announcement said. “The site is built to immediately provide charging for EVs of all shapes and sizes, and will serve as an innovation center, allowing both PGE and DTNA to study energy management, charger use and performance, and, in the case of DTNA, its own vehicles’ charging performance.”

“Electric Island is located across the street from DTNA headquarters, less than one mile from I-5, and represents the first location specifically designed for medium- and heavy-duty trucks aligned to the blueprint of the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor Initiative (WCCTCI),” according to the statement. “WCCTCI’s collaboration between nine electric utilities and two government agencies yielded a strategic plan in 2020 to electrify 1,300 miles of I-5 across the three West Coast states to provide publicly available charging for freight and delivery trucks. The site is designed to keep Electric Island future-proof, allowing the chargers of today to be replaced with new charger technologies of the future, including the planned 1+ megawatt chargers, when they are released. …”

Launch of the MCS

On June 14, 2022, CharIN announced that four years after the MCS Task Force was formed, the MCS was inaugurated “with a colorful demonstration on an Alpitronic charger and a Scania 100% Electric truck” at the CharIN booth at EVS35 in Oslo on the first official day of the show.

“MCS, the Megawatt Charging System, represents a global solution for Heavy Duty transportation, and is based on globally aligned requirements and a technical specification to develop the requirements for a worldwide standard with final publication of the standard expected in 2024,” the announcement said. “International specialists, many of whom are CharIN members, have been contributing to this development with their expertise in the field of Megawatt Charging. Experiences made by many members and users on CCS, deep knowledge about the communication protocol, interoperability, and functionality help pave the way not only for trucks but also for marine vessels, aeronautics, and mining.”

“Another great achievement of the CharIN MCS Task Force was the common agreement on one and the same position of the MCS Connector on all trucks worldwide,” CharIN added. “ This will be implemented by all MCS manufacturers. …”

CharIN MCS Whitepaper published

On November 11, 2022, CharIN published its whitepaper about the MCS outlining “recommendations and requirements for MCS related standards bodies and solution suppliers.”

“There are two key technologies to broad acceptance of battery electric commercial vehicles: increased range and decreased charge times,” the introduction says. “Charging time, which can be quantified as distance per time unit charged, should be considered across the fleet, and should also consider lost charging time due to delayed charging or even charging equipment issues.”

The whitepapers says MCS offers:

  • “The charge rate necessary to realize widespread adoption of battery electrification in the commercial vehicle market by increasing driving range gained per minute spent charging.”

  • “Improved robustness of communication, which will reduce downtime related to failed charging events.”

Noting that commercial vehicles customers have “very specific driving patterns,” the whitepaper notes that by increasing the charge rate, MCS “will allow customers to drive more distance per day by utilizing the mandated break-time from the hours-of-service regulations.”

“These regulations state that drivers must take a break on occasion during their drive cycle; the exact amount varies by location, but it’s well understood that reducing charging times to fit into normal breaks in the duty cycle is an enabler for improved electrification for commercial vehicles,” according to the whitepaper. “This is just one specific example of how the MCS charge rate can enable the market.”

How to Prepare for the MCS

In the spirit of “future-proofing” as noted at the start of this post, CharIN offers recommendations to prepare for the MCS.

“With the release of MCS in the near term, many companies that are planning, purchasing, and installing commercial EV charging equipment may be wondering how to handle this transition,” CharIN says. “Because CCS and MCS are not directly compatible, it may be unclear how companies should manage the immediate needs of fleet electrification and the long-term plans to continue adding charging capabilities with MCS.”

The good news is CharIN says the CCS to MCS transition can be “smooth and easy” for those who are well-prepared. Key takeaways from the recommendations include:

  • Keep future expansion in mind: “Current CCS charging sites should always be developed with future expansion in mind, including MCS. For example, developers can plan for the appropriate grid interconnections, make enough space for charging stations and cable handling, and lay sufficient conduit for future new stations during construction.”

  • Incorporate multiple charging ports: “Automakers should plan to incorporate multiple charging ports in commercial vehicles to ensure operational availability to provide MCS charging when needed and for long distance applications, and CCS charging in for example urban areas during longer parking times and on existing CCS charging sites.”

  • Start working with local utilities now: “Independent of specific vehicle needs regarding CCS or MCS, fleets should start planning with their local utility for their future power needs.”

  • Embrace flexibility: “Charging solutions with flexibility in their power ‘building blocks’ (modules) can individually power CCS at lower power and combine to power MCS chargers at higher power.”

For more details, please see the full post.

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