LOGAN – Researchers at Utah State University have invented a faster and smaller charger for electric vehicles as part of a larger project that's intended to move electric car technology forward.
The dream for the project includes wireless charging for electric cars. The cars will not have to stop to reenergize.
"We have over 20 patents that have been involved in this space, and we have many in-progress addressing the challenges with range-anxiety and cost for electric vehicles," said Regan Zane, director of the USU ASPIRE research center. "This is looking at, 'How is it that we can bring the size of the battery packs down and allow vehicles to charge more quickly?'"
The project is backed by the National Science Foundation to push electric vehicles further into the everyday lives of Utahns.
One of the newest pieces to solve that puzzle is a working prototype. "For the same footprint of the volume, you can now charge at a higher rate," Zane said.
Dorai Yelaverthi is the research scientist behind it. "So the converter is usually made up of two subsystems in there. So one is taking the power from the utility and converting the AC power to DC power," Yelaverthi said.
On a very basic level, the team has reduced that conversion process from two phases to one. That is what allowed them to make the charger smaller and faster.
"The subsequent state usually controls the amount of charge going into the battery," Yelaverthi said.
Yelaverthi and ASPIRE received a patent and are already working with the Port of Los Angeles to test it out on shipyard vehicles.
This is looking at, 'How is it that we can bring the size of the battery packs down and allow vehicles to charge more quickly?'
–Regan Zane, director, USU ASPIRE research center
There is a problem though. The power grid, as a whole, is not at all ready for a mass changeover to electric cars — at least not as they exist now.
"You need to have the battery technology improve and also the grid services improve, and also you want distributable renewable energy to support our fast charging," Yelaverthi said.
This is why many more inventions are still in the works at the USU lab.
"We're really excited about how we're moving the needle forward; how we're going to bring about electrification and reduce emissions and improve our air quality. This is what we're all about," Zane said.