„The charging infrastructure needs to be expanded even more“

Expert Interview – June 17, 2024

Fast charging stations powered by direct current are required throughout Europe if we are to ensure that electromobility not only appeals to commuters and regional transportation providers, but also to travelers and vacationers. While conventional AC charging stations often take hours to fully charge a battery, fast chargers can do the same task in minutes.

But what is the current status of the expansion of the DC fast-charging network? What developments and innovations are there? What hurdles and challenges need to be overcome? Marcel Brzank from Siemens reveals all in this interview.

Interview with Marcel Brzank from Siemens

Marcel Brzank, Head of Product Lifecycle Management High Power Charging at Siemens

Aside from the fact that direct current charges faster are there any other advantages and differences where AC and DC are concerned?

Yes, the energy is stored in the car’s battery as direct current, which means feeding it directly into the car as direct current, without having to convert it to alternating current first, is much more efficient. Converting it always causes losses, and there is also the need to have additional equipment. The most efficient way to get the energy into the battery is to feed it in directly as direct current.

Those of us who have a photovoltaic system on the roof and a battery in the storage system know that losses can occur.

Exactly, there are losses, and efficiency is an important issue. Energy is a precious commodity and we need to use it wisely. Utilizing the right system ensures that the energy goes directly from the sun, into the car, and is not wasted. I’m excited by how developments in this sector are going to progress.

If I want to travel from Germany to Estonia, Portugal or Sicily in an electric car, what is the infrastructure like?

The availability of charging infrastructure has improved considerably in Europe, partly thanks to various funding programs. There are still regional differences, though. Nevertheless, traveling from Germany to Sicily or Greece with an electric car is perfectly feasible with the right planning. There are many fast charging stations and the technology providers, including Siemens, have achieved a lot. Of course, it goes without saying that we, as a hardware and software provider, are also doing everything we can to drive the expansion forward.

What role does fast charging play at Siemens?

Siemens has the clear goal of becoming a leading provider in fast charging, both for passenger cars and for commercial vehicles and buses. We want to establish ourselves firmly in this market segment and offer fast charging solutions that boost the advancement of electromobility.

Is the infrastructure for buses and trucks the area that still needs to be improved?

Yes, while the infrastructure for passenger cars is well developed, there is still room for improvement for buses and trucks. The charging infrastructure needs to be expanded even more in order to cope with the increasing demand. There is still a lot of unutilized capacity and we need to make the networks denser and more efficient.

Is there competition between different types of charging?

Not really. Having different charging options is crucial. Fast charging stations are important, but being able to charge your vehicle while at home or at the workplace also plays a big role. It is essential that we have a strong grid to support the charging infrastructure.

What challenges does expanding the charging infrastructure present?

The main problems are planning and approval processes. Infrastructure projects take time and cost money. Grid operators need to plan carefully to ensure grid stability – we can build chargers faster than the operators can provide the connections. This is a challenge that we, in collaboration with our partners and politicians, have to face head on.

Is it easier to connect to the grid in the countryside than it is in the city?

Not necessarily. It depends on the amount of energy required. Often, bundling several charging stations in one place is more efficient. This requires good planning and cooperation with both the grid operators and the local authorities.

What about the capacity for charging multiple cars at the same time?

Solidly planned fast charging stations are designed to deliver the required power. The grid capacity and the charging station itself must be the right size to meet demand. Planning and buffer capacities are crucial here.

What role does battery storage play in charging stations?

Battery storage systems are important to compensate for capacity bottlenecks. They can improve the efficiency and economic viability of charging locations. Energy storage systems allow us to absorb short-term load peaks and ensure a stable energy supply.

Can solar installations help with fast charging stations?

Yes, solar installations definitely can contribute to the energy supply. Small modules cannot supply all the energy needed, but what they can do is help to cover the energy demand for screens, cooling and operation of the charging station. In combination with battery storage and good grid planning, renewable energies also play an important role.

How significant is the topic of cyber security for the digital infrastructure?

Security is a key issue. We attach great importance to cyber security in order to protect our systems from attacks. These security measures are constantly evolving and we offer comprehensive support to protect our customers’ critical infrastructure.

How long do charging stations last and what does the future hold?

Most charging stations are expected to have a service life of at least ten years and, to ensure it stays that way, we also offer comprehensive support for the system as part of our service. This not only includes the important software updates, but also upgrade packages to keep the system fit for use. The efficiency of the systems will only continue to increase in the future. There will also be more standardization with a view to increasing compatibility and reliability. New technologies, such as inductive charging, will also increase in significance.

Inductive charging sounds interesting. Is this something to look out for in the future?

Absolutely! Inductive charging is hugely convenient because you do not need any cables to do it. This is particularly attractive in situations where charging needs to be both straightforward and user-friendly. It’ll no doubt play a significant role in the future of electromobility.

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