Skip to main content

Ask The Expert - Relays for Electric Vehicle Charging

Relays will play a crucial role in EV charging infrastructure, in a range of applications from switching to safety. To discuss relays and their uses in the latest electric vehicle charging equipment, I talked to Henrique Canelas and Brian Lineberry of global manufacturer TE Connectivity. Join our conversation as we talk about how EV charging differs between regions and the different relay technologies that are vital to both AC and DC charging.

For more information from TE Connectivity on EV charging click here.

The widespread adoption of electric vehicles has brought one of the greatest changes in the automotive industry for more than a generation. While the idea of the electric vehicle is not new, our changing view of fossil fuels has brought electric vehicles into the headlines over recent years.

The concern for our impact on the environment is leading manufacturers and governments worldwide to make commitments. We are being encouraged to reduce and eventually eliminate our need for fossil fuels, and electric vehicles will play a large role in achieving this.

The challenge faced by those promoting change to electric power is that gasoline is too convenient. Fossil fuels are so useful for vehicles because they provide a high energy density, which means that they can deliver a lot of energy from a relatively small volume and weight. In addition, the infrastructure that has developed during a century of car use means that refilling with gasoline is quick and convenient. With gas stations every few miles, and cars that can reach 400 miles on a single tank, drivers need not be concerned about their vehicle reaching its destination.

To be accepted by everyday drivers, the manufacturers, therefore, need to make electric vehicles that are as convenient and simple to use as traditionally-powered cars. This will require infrastructure that is dedicated to vehicle charging, and as common as the conventional gas station.

Many users will charge their vehicles whilst they are parked at home or at work. This will require a massive investment in kerbside equipment, with every home and every parking lot equipped to charge electric vehicles. Although connected to the household electricity supply, the sophistication and energy required by these charging stations will need dedicated systems to control them. The potential volume of these stations is huge with millions needed in every city. They need to be safe and effective charging whilst also being cost-effective enough to encourage drivers and employers to adopt them.

A different challenge comes from the need to charge vehicles during longer journeys. The manufacturers of today’s highest-performing electric vehicles are suggesting that they can reach between 200 and 300 miles. For longer journeys, solutions need to be found that will not cause huge delays. Currently, a gas-powered vehicle can have its tank refilled in just a few minutes, allowing the driver to continue their trip rapidly.

In contrast, charging the same vehicle from a domestic outlet will take hours. This is clearly impractical for long trips, especially in rural areas with long distances between neighbouring towns. Some manufacturers are creating networks of dedicated charging stations, capable of providing an electric car with 200 miles’ worth of power in just minutes. These need to become as common as gas stations.

If this level of convenience becomes a reality, the final barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles can be overcome. If using an electric vehicle becomes as easy as gas, then their true benefits – low operating cost, reduced environmental impact and greater reliability – will become overwhelming. We will be well on our way to creating a better environment for the future.

Many countries around the world are investing heavily in electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Whether installed in the domestic environment or rapid charging stations, this will be vital for the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

Connector Geek is Dave in real life. After three decades in the industry, Dave still likes talking about connectors almost as much as being a Dad to his two kids. He still loves Lego too. And guitars.
DesignSpark Electrical Logolinkedin