Powin uses batteries to charge batteries

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Intel’s award-nominated electric vehicle charging station avoids demand charges thanks to Powin Energy’s battery technology. Pic: Powin Energy.

By Jason Deign

Systems integrator Powin Energy could gain an award today for a seemingly bizarre energy storage application: using batteries to charge batteries.

The Oregon, USA-based company is among those shortlisted for a 2016 Energy Storage North America Innovation Award for an electric vehicle fast-charging station at the headquarters of microprocessor firm Intel.

The installation, in Santa Clara, California, uses Powin Energy’s Battery Pack Operating System (bp-OS) to manage 30kw and 43kWh of lithium iron phosphate storage linked to 15 SolarWorld PV panels with a capacity of 4.1kW.

The use of batteries for electric vehicle fast charging avoids the need for standard three-phase 208/277/480V AC connections and helps avoid high demand charges, said EV4, the firm that designed and manages the station.

The technology also makes it possible to place charging stations in areas where three-phase AC is hard or costly to obtain.

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US charging stations expand

When Steven Chu resigned as US Energy Secretary some wondered if support for renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles would continue. Electric vehicles remain a tiny percentage of the global car fleet, and the US is no different, although it does boast 75,000 road vehicles sold since 2010.

There, the industry is dogged by high prices, consumer indifference, and ‘range anxiety’, where drivers are concerned that they will run out of power without a recharge station in sight.

One development that should help ease at least the last of those concerns are the 500-plus quick-charge stations Nissan is planning to install over the next 18 months, which would include the first recharge network for Washington, DC.

More still should be on the way, thanks to the US Department of Energy’s Workplace Charging Challenge, part of the Electric Vehicle Everywhere Challenge, which is aimed at producing more affordable and convenient electric vehicles by 2022.

Verizon and 12 other companies will help develop and commercialise the infrastructure for electric vehicle charging stations as part of the Workplace Charging Challenge. And when planning what type of charging station they plan to produce, these 13 companies could do a lot worse than the model used at Clay Terrace in Carmel, Indiana.

It is integrated with solar panels and a battery storage system, creating a ‘plug-in ecosystem’ which stores surplus power for evenings and cloudy days.

New battery charging algorithm increases capacity 30% for electric loco cells

It’s not just what you do, it’s the way you do it. That’s what researchers into lead acid batteries found, when they successfully designed a charging algorithm to overcome some of the aging processes that plague this type of energy storage unit.

The batteries in question are the one thousand individual cells powering Norfolk Southern Railway No. 999, the first all-electric, battery-powered locomotive in the United States. Like all acid-lead batteries, they suffer from a sulphation, a condition where lead sulphate builds up on the electrodes and, as an insulator, impedes cell performance. The Penn State University research team overcame it by a simple variation in charging rate for the battery.

The improvement of 30%, without the need for any physical or chemical changes in the batteries, is obviously good news for anyone wanting to promote the use of lead-acid energy storage in heavy applications such as this.