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Amy Brown headshot

In the Race to Scale EVs, New Entrants Push the Pedal on Ultra-Fast Charging Technology

By Amy Brown

With evermore dire reports from climate scientists on the relentless pace of climate change, the race to scale electric vehicles (EVs) is gaining speed. Utilities and start-ups are working feverishly to build fast-charging networks as automakers make major investments in EVs. That level of innovation is critical if the world is to finally shift gears to more sustainable transport systems.

Early entrants like Tesla and newer players across the transport system are all revving up their investments in weaning the world from its dependence on the fossil fuel-powered vehicles that are a major contributor to climate change. Transportation is responsible for 24 percent of direct CO2 emissions from fuel combustion, and road vehicles account for nearly three-quarters of those emissions.

According to the International Energy Agency, the global electric-vehicle fleet could reach 230 million if governments accelerate efforts to reach international climate and energy goals.

Charging infrastructure is the missing link

In the transition to EVs, the U.S. lags behind much of the world. In 2021, just over 1.13 million vehicles on American roads are EVs, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA). That leaves the country  with nearly 6 million electric vehicles in operation at the end of 2020; and the rate of EV adoption in the U.S. is far lower than other industrialized nations.

As automakers like Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen and others make major investments in EVs, both the slow speed of charging EVs and the charging infrastructure is woefully inadequate to meet the demands of a scaled-up U.S. EV fleet.

Tesla’s Supercharger network is the most extensive electric vehicle fast-charging network on the planet, with over 25,000 Superchargers at over 2,700 stations around the world. However, its proprietary network is only available to Tesla owners, although Electrek recently reported Tesla has confirmed plans to open its network to other automakers next year. Still, even a more widely available Supercharger network won’t be enough to meet the need of millions of more EVs on the road.

And then there’s the sometimes snail pace of charging. Depending on the type of charging point and size of a battery, electric cars can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours to charge; a typical EV takes about eight hours to charge from empty to full on a 7kW charging point, according to Pod Point, a manufacturer of EV chargers.

New charging technology for EVs promises breakthrough

Enter a new player on the scene, ADS-TEC Energy GmbH, a German company offering a battery buffered technology which it says can power an EV for a distance of 62 miles (100 kilometers) in 10 minutes.

What makes the technology stand out, according to the company, is that the ultrafast charging (up to 320kW) can use existing power-limited grids without additional infrastructure power upgrades. In other words, with the battery buffered technology, power for the ultrafast charging can be stored rather than drawn directly. This could help to avoid brownouts and blackouts that could occur if millions of vehicles were to take advantage of the ultrafast charging. And because it uses the existing electricity grid, the company says its technology can reach previously just about any areas including more remote and rural areas, helping to ensure more inclusive access to EV charging.  

While ADS-TEC Energy has been honing its technology for the past decade, it got a lift this past week when it announced a business combination agreement to merge with European Sustainable Growth Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, formed earlier this year to fast-track sustainable solutions to global challenges likes climate change.

With the merger, ADS-TEC Energy has a market value of some $580 million, according to Bloomberg, giving it a leg up in making its technology more widely available to utility companies, auto-equipment manufacturers, and charge-point operators.

It will be competing against a range of firms entering the space, from U.S. startup FreeWire Technologies to U.K.-based Gridserve, according to Greentech Media

The EV market is heating up

That the race to scale EVs is heating up is no surprise to Lars Thunell, chairman of the European Sustainable Growth Acquisition Corp. That’s why they made a substantial bet on ADS-TEC Energy, he told TriplePundit.

“With the number of EV cars coming to the market, this is just going to explode. If we thought the EV market was hot when we began our search for a company to acquire, now it’s so hot you can hardly touch it,” Thunell said.

The charging technology has been one of the biggest bottlenecks to scaling EVs, he added, and avoiding the need to invest in specially dedicated power lines for ultrafast charging offers a particularly potent breakthrough.

“We’ve all seen the recently released IPCC report, and there is really no time to waste,” Thunell said, “which is why we have moved quickly on getting this merger together. More than ever, we need tangible solutions that can deliver net zero emissions.”

Image credit: Michael Fousert/Unsplash

Amy Brown headshot

Based in Florida, Amy has covered sustainability for over 25 years, including for TriplePundit, Reuters Sustainable Business and Ethical Corporation Magazine. She also writes sustainability reports and thought leadership for companies. She is the ghostwriter for Sustainability Leadership: A Swedish Approach to Transforming Your Company, Industry and the World. Connect with Amy on LinkedIn and her Substack newsletter focused on gray divorce, caregiving and other cultural topics.

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