Although electric vehicle uptake has increased, particularly in recent years, this has been mainly limited to road-friendly vehicles, with OEMs in the off-highway market unable to replicate similar success rates. However, it’s hardly a surprise, considering that trends for on-highway vehicles tend to pave the way for scaling up the more power-intensive requirements of off-highway electric vehicles.
With 800V batteries now on the verge of becoming the go-to option for road-friendly vehicles soon, further developments in high-voltage electric components will follow, and that’s where real savings and greater efficiency come into play. However, simply increasing voltage alone won’t address all the challenges facing further battery electric vehicle adoption, and other changes will be needed to support the shift.
The immediate benefits of higher voltage
The benefits for organizations to switch to an electric vehicle and machine fleet are numerous, which can be explored here. In this article, however, we’ll focus more on the benefits of increasing voltage and its challenges.
Most current road-friendly vehicles tend to operate in the 400V – 800V range, but switching to a minimum of 800V will lead to critical upgrades for battery-electric vehicles. Cabling and electrical components can be thinner, and less copper is used, which reduces weight. Furthermore, increased voltage leads to less current required, saving fabrication costs for automakers, and less heat is generated, enhancing overall safety.
The weight reduction also translates to less energy needed to power the vehicle, so the EV can operate more efficiently, resulting in a slight range increase per charge. And it’s on this note that we can introduce the significant selling point of higher voltages: effectively halving charging time.
For example, a 400V EV battery would normally take around 90 minutes to charge from 5% to 80%, whereas the 800V battery in the Porsche Taycan does so in less than 25 minutes. However, the charger needs to provide a minimum of 300A, which shows that adequate charging infrastructure will be critical to support increased voltages and EV uptake.
From a design standpoint, the increase in available space might even allow for better weight distribution, while electrical power can be converted to mechanical power far more efficiently. This means that motors can be much smaller, weighing just 25kg, which is ideal for on and off-highway vehicles, as stacking marginal gains translates to considerable savings at the end of the day.
Increased voltage paves the way for advancements in automotive power electronics, including inverters, onboard chargers, and DC-DC converters, further boosting powertrain efficiency. This will also help reduce battery pack sizes while still delivering increased energy, range, and operating times, depending on the vehicle or application mission profile.
Will this reshape the OHEV market?
However, upping the voltage is not necessarily the answer for the OHEV market. Firstly, some applications don’t need to run on high voltage; think of forklifts that operate over short distances in a warehouse and are not power-hungry machines. Secondly, batteries above 800V are not uncommon either; here at Xerotech, we can scale our battery packs to reach 1,000V if the application calls for it.
Key to unlocking the potential of high voltage is ensuring the charging infrastructure is in place to support it. Fast chargers are vital for this, as they will help ensure that charging to 80% capacity takes place in approximately 20 minutes, ensuring as little downtime as possible. This last point is critical for industrial applications, where each operational minute determines whether the vehicle’s total lifetime cost was a worthwhile investment.
Shifting to faster charging infrastructure will require proper planning and investment, as the chargers must be capable of withstanding the harsh conditions most OHEVs operate in. If the application in question operates in a mine, in a forest, or a field, the charger will require specific ingress protection in terms of dirt and dust, and electricity grid power might need to be diverted to support the new requirements.
New safety levels will also need to be observed, as the higher the voltage, the greater the risk of electrocution for anyone handling the battery. Higher voltages are also more likely to create voltage arcs of greater intensity, which can result in battery and vehicle damage, or worse, human injury or even death. Operating with such conditions requires the highest safety standards, which is why at Xerotech, we adhere to SAE, UL, and ISO parameters to ensure safety in all conditions.
Therefore, in more direct terms, the switch itself of road friendly EVs to 800V from 400V won’t affect the OHEV market by much, as it’s a market that’s been operating with higher voltages for some time. However, a more expansive data pool will show how components perform under high-voltage conditions, becoming a catalyst for OHEV innovation further down the line.
Why lithium-ion still leads the way
The answer for the on-highway vehicle appears to be a solid yes since it addresses many of the concerns regarding range anxiety, charging time, and overall vehicle efficiency. However, the OHEV segment will always depend on the application’s mission profile to define the required voltage.
For OEMs, it makes sense to electrify smaller vehicles and machines first, such as mini excavators and loaders, allowing them to track performance data before scaling up. 20-ton machines of similar molds are now becoming more common, and it won’t be long before the largest applications above 40 tons follow a similar trajectory.
In the same way that several governments worldwide have introduced bans on selling new combustion engine passenger vehicles, some are doing the same for heavy-duty vehicles. Countries such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden are all putting pressure on construction companies to electrify their fleets now by effectively placing a ban on emissions in several construction settings. This will also be the case for the Lower Thames Crossing project in London, which will be targeting carbon neutral construction.
Though this will mainly be limited to cities at first, it will eventually become a nationwide requirement, as they fully commit towards a fossil fuel-free future. While it may be viewed as a somewhat aggressive stance, it could change the trajectory of OHEV uptake across the world, which is why OEMS need to partner with the right battery providers.
How Xerotech ensures you reach your electrification targets
Our modular packs can be built to provide the voltage depending on your requirements, with super-fast charging capabilities, and the option of multipacks to truly ramp up the energy output. Furthermore, since there are no recurring design or engineering costs, our partners can save further expenses, whether they’re electrifying one-off projects or entire fleets.
Reach out to a team member to find out how we can help you liberate your business from fossil fuel dependency while ensuring you access all the benefits of electric power, especially since lithium-ion is expected to remain the dominant force in the EV and OHEV market. Alternatively, visit the world’s first comprehensive industrial battery catalogue and see which of our batteries fits your requirements.
Xerotech is an award-winning battery technology company solving one of our generation’s most significant challenges, industrial electrification.
Driven by a shared vision of a fully electric future, our talented team is making an impact on a global scale as Xerotech provides the first truly credible path to zero emissions and enables the electrification of machines that were previously too low-volume to be economically electrified.
Our Hibernium® battery pack platform adapts to the bespoke needs of your vehicle or application. With Hibernium®, you can choose your desired or preferred energy content, operating voltage range, physical dimensions, and even battery cell chemistry.
There are no design or engineering costs, even for one-off prototyping projects making this solution one of the only viable options for low-volume, high-diversity projects.
The electrification of heavy-duty machinery is now available to every OEM and Integrator.