Reliability, uptime and the next generation of EV chargers

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As EVs continue increasing from a very small portion of the vehicles sold annually to a more mainstream presence on roads around the world, consumers and manufacturers are grappling with plenty of important questions. One set of these questions centers around a general “feeling” – that is, “How much does owning and operating an EV ‘feel’ like owning and operating the gas-powered vehicles I’ve used throughout my life?”

The future of EV development and infrastructure, in many ways, hinges on the perceived answers to this question. One natural comparison that people will make, for example, is what it’s like to “fill up” your vehicle at a station (either with gasoline or using a charger). 

As designers continue to find ways to improve charging times (in a race to get EVs within shouting distance of the convenience of quickly stopping by a gas station), it is more important than ever for EV charging stations to maximize reliability and uptime. A recent survey found that up to a staggering quarter of public EV charging stations are not functioning, signaling a dire need within the EV industry for a reassessment of how to make EV charging stations as reliable and easy to use as their gasoline counterparts.

This massive gap between user experiences at EV charging stations and traditional gasoline/petroleum pumps is a fundamental problem facing the EV industry today. EV charging stations must maximize uptime and minimize downtime, and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of EV charging in America (and, surely, around the world) will depend on chargers that are constructed, from the ground up, with reliability and uptime in mind.

Power Innovations International (Pii) offers 30- and 60-kW Quick DC Chargers powered by components with an industry-leading mean time between failure, and these charging stations leverage a modular structure constructed for ensuring uptime with all-in-one cabinets that lower installation costs and simplify maintenance. These chargers bring unparalleled uptime for businesses looking to offer charging solutions for consumers at convenience stores, malls, offices, and hospitals, and to fleet managers looking to reliable EV fleet management solutions.

Pii’s Fundamentals of Reliability

The widespread adoption and implementation of electric vehicles depends on near-continuous uptime and highly reliable componentry. EV charging stations must capitalize on best practices for reliability to ensure that maintenance and upkeep are kept to a minimum, increasing ease-of-access and improving the overall user experience.

Reliability in individual components and systems more broadly are often measured in mean time between failure (MTBF), which is the expected time between failures of a regularly operating system. Consumer Affairs reports that there are just over 64,000 EV charging stations in the US, which means that there are over 56,000,000 potential operating hours every year for EV charging stations in the US.

Pii’s Quick Chargers feature integrated LITEON rectifiers that support the high voltage needs of a broad range of electric vehicles, with an output of 250 to 920Vdc. These rectifiers leverage the same power supply topology that has demonstrated over 1 million hours MTBF, and this demonstrated MTBF allows charging station owners and users the peace of mind that comes from proven reliability. A higher system MTBF increases uptime, reliability, and brings EV users closer to the experience they have come to expect with “filling up” a car.

Protection from the Environment and Avoiding Outside Air Cooling

A primary contributing factor to charging station failures and downtime is the impact of environmental factors, such as dust, liquids, corrosive chemicals, and much more. Stations must be able to withstand strong winds, rain, and snow, as well as drastic changes in temperature other regular meteorological events. 

A failure to thoroughly account for these phenomena will lead to increased downtime and needs for repairs across an EV charging station’s life. Ingress protection and the sealing of the enclosure itself is not a “nice-to-have” in this industry: weather-resistant enclosures – with thermal management that allow for cooling without introducing outside, dirty air that requires filtering – will be a pillar of industry standards moving forward. In short, better shielding and protection for EV charging stations will be central to the industry’s goals of better reliability and near-continuous uptime.  

NEMA enclosure standards include ratings for general-purpose enclosures that are not dust-tight (NEMA 1), enclosures that are drip-tight (NEMA 2), enclosures that are weather-resistant (NEMA 3R), and even those that are operable when ice-laden (NEMA 3S). Many manufacturers have opted to achieve the standard NEMA 3R certifications required for outdoor installations, while Pii’s DC Quick Chargers are NEMA 3S rated. 

Pii’s ultra-reliable components are further protected by more stringent sealing standards that provide ingress protection of fine dust, in addition to the NEMA 3R requirements.  Pii’s thermal management philosophy features air-to-air heat exchangers, meaning that they do not bring in outside air, simplifying maintenance and filter replacement requirements to further shield the internal components from the typical environmental degradation that comes with outside air filtration and cooling.

Pii’s DC Quick Chargers are powered by an innovative modular sliding power rack structure that leverages LITEON’s PSU topology.

Modular Topology for Near-Continuous Uptime

Pii’s DC Quick Chargers use a modular internal power structure with sliding tray racks to help ensure uptime: the chargers are powered by multiple racks that independently supply power to the charging station, meaning that one individual rack’s failure will not cause a full system shutdown.

These power supplies are “field-swappable,” where a minimally trained technician can open a cabinet, visually identify the power supply issue, and replace it in a matter of seconds. In an industry plagued by long maintenance lead times and component shortages, Pii’s simple, modular charging station maximizes reliability and uptime across multiple dimensions: failures within the power conversion are demonstrably rare, but when they do occur, they will not cause cascading failures across the charging station.

Power Innovations International: Redefining Reliability for EV Charging

Power Innovations International has provided power management services to customers around the world since our founding in 1997. We are proud to unveil our line of EV charging products, accessories, and services, which comes out of close partnership with our parent company (LITEON Technology Corporation, one of the two largest global providers of power supplies).

As discussed in this article, Pii’s 30- and 60-kW Quick DC EV chargers were designed, first and foremost, with reliability and uptime in mind. These field-configurable chargers are easy to install and come with lower installation costs, providing the smooth, simple charging experience that EV adopters are increasingly – and rightly – demanding from the industry. These products are particularly suited for businesses looking to provide reliable, simple charging solutions at offices, hospitals, malls, or with dealerships or larger EV fleets.

This article focuses on one sliver of what makes these chargers the herald of the next generation of EV charging. Pii is vertically integrated in design and manufacturing for power conversion, as well as software/firmware controls, and final assembly. 

Your EV charging plans don’t have to be held down by long lead times, expensive installations, and unreliable components: Pii is ready to help you reimagine what’s possible with your next EV charging station. Contact Pii today to learn more about how we can make your current reliability and uptime concerns a thing of the past.

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