Dec 14 2023 | Posted by WUN

Plug-in pioneers: electric vehicle revolution needs big, cheap chargers

Valdez 2

A lack of vehicle charging facilities In Mexico and other emerging markets is preventing the switch to electric vehicles (EVs). A WUN-supported project could make EV uptake more feasible all over the world – and enable EVs themselves to become a power source for cities.

Jesús Elias Valdez-Resendiz, assistant professor at Tecnológico de Monterrey and lead researcher in a project researching the development of a low cost, high efficiency battery charger for electric vehicles in emerging markets, says:

“Countries with older or less robust electrical grids have struggled to develop electric vehicle charging infrastructure, because their systems don’t have the capacity to allocate massive amounts of electricity in enough places. They often have well-developed infrastructures for vehicles powered by petrol and diesel, with established supply chains, so it’s hard to change.

“Our research is addressing this in two ways. We’re developing high efficiency AC to DC converters. This way, emerging markets can use more of the electricity available to charge electric vehicles which need direct current (DC) rather than alternating current (AC).

“We’re also working on the DC to DC regulator to deliver the right amount of power to vehicles.

“We are focusing on making a simple battery charger that regulates electricity with good efficiency. We’re not worried about how big it is, and by making that sacrifice, we can prioritise creating affordable, replicable components – and achieve ‘critical mass’ for EV-supporting infrastructure in Mexico and emerging markets.”

Valdez-Resendiz and colleagues from Tecnológico de Monterrey are collaborating with researchers from the University of Sheffield and the University of Southampton to develop these two components.

They could also make EVs much more affordable, adds Valdez-Resendiz, because increasing the capacity of household and commercial chargers would reduce the need for heavy and expensive components in vehicles themselves. The work has further potential: the team is researching Vehicle-to-Grid (V2G) technology which would enable the transfer of energy between electric vehicles and the electrical grid.

“Most of the time electric vehicles are parked, so then we are not using the full potential of their large batteries; we’re only using a fraction of their immense energy storage capacity,” adds Valdez-Resendiz. “V2G could give vehicle owners extra income and accelerate uptake of EVs.

The team is working with industry to ensure its research addresses compatibility, standardisation and regulating power delivery. And Valdez-Resendiz calls on municipal and national governments and utility firms to prepare: the technology means distribution grids must be ready for big injections of electricity. “Energy is a matter of national security,” he adds “and if we are connecting more efficient systems to the grid, the power must be as clean as possible.” His team is testing next generation, silicon carbide, wide bandgap semiconductors, which can operate at higher voltages, temperatures and frequencies. They enable the modular, prototype components developed by the research team to be more efficient.

WUN’s Research Development Fund supported this project, unlocking further funding of $80,000 from the Mexican Government.

What next?

  • For further information about this research project click here.
  • Click here for a video summary of this project.
  • Sign up to the WUN newsletter to get the latest stories about our members’ research, three times per year.