Building a Global Network of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

  • Celestica  |
  • 2021-08-04
EV Charging Network

Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to play a critical role in the global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), consumers spent $120 billion (USD) on EV purchases last year, a 50% increase from 2019, and there are more than 11 million electric cars, vans, trucks, and buses on the world’s roads. Yet, EVs represent less than 1% of all vehicles in use. The pace at which their adoption rate accelerates depends in large part on the expansion of reliable charging station networks worldwide.

The international non-profit organization Climate Group reports members of its EV100 initiative cited the lack of charging infrastructure as the top barrier to EV adoption, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom. In a 2020 survey of 3,500 EV owners in the U.S. by EV advocacy group Plug In America, more than half of the respondents reported having problems with public charging stations. The most common complaint was a non-functional charger. And a recent University of California, Davis study revealed that about 1 in 5 EV owners switched back to gas-powered vehicles due to “dissatisfaction with the convenience of charging.”

Overcoming barriers to EV ownership

While advancements in under the hood power electronics systems and batteries are enabling more affordable models that relieve consumers of range anxiety for everyday use, reliable charging remains a key concern. When EV drivers plan longer trips, the first challenge is locating charging stations along their routes. Then when they pull into a station, they face a number of unanswered questions. Will the charging technology be interoperable with their vehicles? Will there be long lines of cars waiting for the next available outlet? How long will it take to recharge the battery? How much will it cost?

Governments around the world realize this is a complex issue and are working to expand EV charging infrastructures. The pandemic slowed progress last year, but installations increased by 45% in 2020. There are now 1.3 million publicly accessible chargers worldwide, of which 30% are DC fast chargers that charge at rates of 25-50 kW. The electric vehicle charging stations market is expected to reach a value of $103.6 billion by 2028, at a CAGR of 26.4%.

Charging station is an umbrella term that encompasses the three classifications of technologies designed for residential and/or commercial applications:

  • Level 1 uses 110/120 volts, and while it is the slowest of the three options, it’s also the simplest to install. That makes Level 1 ideal for residential use where the EV owner can allow the car to recharge overnight.
  • Level 2 uses 208/240 volts to replenish batteries faster - about 4 to 6 hours to completely charge a fully depleted battery - and is used for residential and commercial charging stations.
  • Level 3 DC fast chargers use between 200 and 600 volts to achieve charge at rates of 25-50 kW, enabling them to provide an 80% charge in only 30 minutes. This is used for commercial applications.

OEMs building these products have unique challenges depending on the solution they are trying to bring to market. As a strategic product lifecycle partner, Celestica helps these companies reduce hardware design risk and enable reliable volume manufacturing and service support.

Accelerating the Product Development Lifecycle

When well-established multinational companies or early-stage OEMs are developing technology for Level 1, 2, or 3 charging stations, they turn to Celestica for help with design and engineering, manufacturing and test services, supply chain management, after-market service, and support - or all of the above. Celestica’s more than 20 years of experience across a wide range of Industrial and Smart Energy markets enables our teams to accelerate the product development lifecycle and get their new products to market faster.

Recently an OEM partnered with Celestica to perform a design for manufacturability analysis to determine how to scale up the production of its new product. The difference between manufacturing dozens of units and thousands is substantial - problems that don’t appear during the former can often cause delays and reworks after mass production begins. Celestica’s experts examined the product down to the board layout level and made recommendations for design changes to prevent that costly scenario from occurring. 

Additionally, leveraging ruggedization processes and technologies for electronics assembly cleaning, underfill, conformal coating, and potting are critical to protecting delicate electrical components and ensuring their long-term performance in harsh environments.

Creating a platform for ruggedization and product testing processes will help OEMs avoid costly product reworks, delivery delays, and in-field failures. One example is an ecosystem project led by Celestica in collaboration with REMAP and other strategic EV partners, which addresses the consistency of EV charger testing, reliability, and industry standards. This will be critical to support OEMs in product optimization, next-generation EV development, and improved field performance.  

Meeting an Immediate Need

The data is clear and indisputable: switching from gas to electric vehicles will play a critical role in helping the world make significant progress in achieving the Paris Climate Accord's goals of cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2030 and eliminating them entirely by 2050. 

But for that to happen, consumers must feel confident that publicly available fast-charging stations are easily accessible wherever their travels take them. A recent Wall Street Journal report summarizes why expanding charging stations worldwide is critical to convincing more people to purchase EVs: “While EVs can be powered up at home, industry analysts and academics believe that a fast-charging infrastructure is essential to get beyond their current limited adoption. This next wave of slightly-less-early adopters is critical to a global automotive industry betting heavily on battery power.”

The Celestica Industrial & Smart Energy team is committed to helping our customers in the EV charging industry design, test, scale, and support products that will accelerate the installation of more EV charging stations worldwide and help create a more sustainable future.