EV Fleets

7 Things You Need to Know About Megawatt EV Charging

June 12, 2024

As the world moves closer to a more sustainable way to move goods, shippers need to find a way to power huge EV trucks capable of carrying cargo at scale. Enter megawatt EV charging (MCS) – a fast, high-power charging system that will be able to charge heavy-duty electric trucks to 80% in mere minutes.

In May of this year, Siemens Smart Infrastructure announced that their engineers had successfully tested their megawatt charging system prototype, completing the “first ever 1 MW charge” on a Mercedes-Benz eTruck prototype. Other leading-edge EV charging companies, too, are working on MCS systems that can someday power a semi as quickly as one can now charge a passenger EV.

If you’re a heavy-duty fleet owner thinking about going electric, you’ll want to know all you can about this promising technology. Here’s what you need to know.

1. Why Do Heavy-Duty EVs Need Fast Charging?

Image via Freepik

Today’s heavy-duty EV fleets face a major challenge: Current charging systems simply can’t charge large trucks and buses quickly enough. Cargo must get to its buyers on time, and passengers certainly don’t want to wait four hours for their bus to charge.

To get there, however, charging systems must increase both their charging voltage and current, as a CharIN post recently pointed out. If megawatt EV charging lives up to its promise, the post stated, the technology might even spread into the maritime and airline industries.

Currently, heavy-duty trucks and buses must take short-distance routes. However, with MCS on the horizon, heavy-duty EVs soon might be able to handle hauls across the country. As the Siemens post cited earlier stated, MCS technology can charge a large EV in about 30 minutes – just enough time for drivers to take a short break before taking off on the next leg of their trip.

2. How Does a Megawatt Charging System Differ from Current Chargers?

Since the charging cable needs to handle massive amounts of energy, it must be much larger in diameter. However, as the CharIN post observed, the cable will still be lightweight enough to accommodate manual charging.

3. Is There an MCS Standardization Plan in the Works?

Granted, the incompatibility of regular charging infrastructure slowed down the rate of EV adoption among passenger vehicle owners. However, that is changing with the industry-wide adoption of the Tesla Combined Charging System (CCS) adapter.

Not so with the MCS technology. CharIN and other industry players formed a task force back in 2018 to head off such challenges at the outset. With a diverse focus group looking at ways to make the new chargers’ systems agreeable to all, MCS should be ready to go at the outset. The focus group is also looking into other applications for megawatt charging – including light aircraft, ferries, and other seagoing vessels.

4. Are There Any MCS-Ready EV Charging Stations Up and Running?

Image via Freepik

Aside from the experimental models, such as the Siemens and Mercedes-Benz charger mentioned earlier, there are no public MCS charging stations operating today. However, there is one public charging site that has all the infrastructure in place to charge EV semis, as the CharIN post pointed out.

This Portland-area station, the product of a partnership between Portland General Electric and Daimler Trucks North America, is ready for business when MCS technology goes into full production. With battery storage as a power backup during peak usage times, this station should be a dependable charging source for large trucks carrying loads through the Pacific Northwest.

5. What Will Trucks Need to Be MCS Compatible?

If the Mercedes-Benz prototype is any indication, a truck must have enough battery capacity to absorb huge amounts of energy in a half-hour’s time. The Benz semi, for example, can absorb 372 kWh in 30 minutes, according to the Siemens article.

That’s a game-changer. With a total battery capacity of 621 kWh, the Mercedes truck will have a 300-mile range while towing more than 88,000 pounds. That’s a long range. However, with its ability to charge to 80% of its capacity in a half-hour, the truck will be able to cover extremely long distances in a day, just like diesel-powered trucks can.

6. What Requirements Must a Megawatt Charging System Meet?

MCS chargers must adhere to the SAE J3271 standards, as the Argonne National Laboratory spells out. Chargers under these standards must be able to charge from 440kW to 3.75 MW. They will feature a standardized plug design, follow specific communications and safety protocols, and allow interoperability among charging stations, networks, the local grid, and the vehicles they charge.

Currently, larger EVs can use the J1772 standard, although they take hours to charge. When MCS charging is ready to deploy, the SAE J3271 will augment the J1772 CCS standards, not replace them.

7. Will MCS Deployment Occur Worldwide?

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Since most developed nations have long-range electrification plans underway, it is likely that many of those nations will adopt the MCS to charge heavy-duty EVs. These nations should include, at the very least, Europe and North America, according to the Siemens piece.

However, as ChargePoint’s Hossein Kazemi warns, the move to megawatt EV charging won’t occur overnight. As he puts it, it will “be the exception and not the rule” for the short term unless a breakthrough occurs, especially in heavy-duty EV truck manufacturing. EV semis, unfortunately, are heavier than diesel or hydrogen models. Therefore, many heavy-duty EV trucks have a challenge meeting DOT weight requirements.

But MCS is coming. Savvy investors and charging station owners need to plan now to implement the technology once it’s feasible to deploy. As Kazemi puts it, EV infrastructure companies need to “scale into the technology as the standards and [the EV charging industry] begin to solidify.”

Get Ready for the Future of EV Charging at the EV Charging Summit & Expo

The time is now to learn all you can about MCS and other EV charging technologies on the horizon. At an EV Charging Summit event, you’ll discover all the latest breakthroughs from the industry’s best and brightest.

Don’t wait to reserve your place at the table. Register for the next event today!

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