In September, an international task force including representatives of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN) hosted a meeting of “leading OEMs, utilities, equipment manufacturers and suppliers” to test prototypes for a new charging system for heavy-duty vehicles: the Megawatt Charging System (MCS).
The task force says the test, which focused primarily on the fit and thermal performance of vehicle inlets and megawatt charger connectors, yielded promising results, and that the new system could overhaul the long-haul trucking industry.
For over-the-road trucks, charging speed is critical. Today’s ICE trucks refuel during mandated driver breaks, and schedules are tight. Industry observers agree that even the 350 kW power level considered today’s state of the art for passenger car charging won’t cut it for trucks. James Carter, a consultant at Vision Mobility, estimated that a battery-electric semi truck would need 8 to 10 hours to reach a full charge at 350 kW. The ultimate goal of the MCS task force is to develop a system that could charge a truck’s massive battery pack in half an hour.
“MCS enables the electrification of more truck routes and more electrified miles,” Rustam Kocher, a Daimler Trucks executive and the Chairperson of the MCS task force, told Electric Autonomy Canada. “The active participation by a broad coalition of over 100 companies and organizations, with a global spread, will drive us to a robust and broadly adopted commercial vehicle charging standard that will be capable of rapidly charging large battery packs on trucks, buses, boats and planes.”
Tesla President of Automotive Jerome Guillen recently said his company is working towards a similar charging goal for its upcoming Tesla Semi (as reported by Electrek). “We realized that the 350 kW or so that we are looking for cars is not going to be enough for Semi. We’re looking for something much more powerful than that, that can [charge] the Semi during a break, between your driving time, so that you can drive until the next break.”
“We’re working with other parties to make sure that there is a standard infrastructure…we’re not working in isolation,” Guillen added. Tesla is a member of CharIN, but the extent of the California carmaker’s involvement with the MCS task force is unclear.
Stephen Koskoletos, Head of EV Charging Infrastructure Canada at ABB, told Electric Autonomy Canada that MCS is “a good and viable economic model for long-distance road transport,” and noted that a battery-electric truck using MCS (assuming the system is successfully developed) would be up to four times more efficient than a hydrogen fuel cell-powered truck.
Rustam Kocher is “very confident” that the task force will reach its goal, but believes that public support will be needed for MCS to reach its potential. “Many companies are already investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on design, development, and prototypes for MCS,” says Kocher. “Bringing them all together for common testing events like the NREL event is tremendously valuable to build knowledge and experience with the design, but it’s not free. Once the standard is completed, we would expect federal and state programs to help accelerate public installation of the MCS standard to enable broad fleet electrification.”