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Man-charging-carQUEENSLAND-BASED electric vehicle charger manufacturer Tritium has raised $5 million in new capital so it can bring two new products to markets around the world.

The first is a new fast charger that is three times faster than the current world-leading Veefil model and will be compatible with the next wave of electric vehicles.

The second is a home or small office system that allows drivers to use the DC power in their vehicle’s battery to power their houses and also recharge their vehicle’s battery from their rooftop photo-voltaic arrays.

“Our current 50kW fast charger adds about 50km of travel to a vehicle battery every 10 minutes,” Tritium co-founder, managing director and chief executive officer David Finn told GoAuto.

“This new one will do 150kW, so you will get 150km every 10 minutes.”

Charged up: Tritium CEO David Finn (left) shows Queensland treasurer Curtis Pitt the latest in fast-charging technology.

Charged up: Tritium CEO David Finn (left) shows Queensland treasurer Curtis Pitt the latest in fast-charging technology.

Mr Finn said the faster recharging will make interstate travel more feasible for drivers and may help buyers overcome range anxiety.

“It starts to make interstate travel very acceptable. It affects the buying decision because people see the vehicles now and you can drive 120km and then you have to sit there for 20 minutes. Interstate is very difficult.

“It does affect the buying decision, even though you might only do it once every three years. It changes their mindset when they buy the car.”

The faster charge rate would also be useful around town, when people are working or doing their daily chores, according to Mr Finn.

“It will be useful for hub charging around cities to give people confidence and allow them to get bump charges as they move around destination locations: cafes, restaurants, shopping centres.

“That’s when need to do it quickly. And people are prepared to pay for that convenience.

They might pay almost as much as they pay for petrol because it’s convenient.

New-Image-Veefil-inSitu“They get their cheap charging at home, off peak, and a lot of the time – in the US especially – at the workplace they get free charging there as an incentive.”

Mr Finn said the whole electric vehicle (EV) industry was aware of the need to improve the technology.

“For mass adoption, all the vehicle manufacturers and us, as charger manufacturers, understand that that technology needs to improve, and that’s what we are doing.”

He said the new 150kW version of the Tritium fast charger would reach the market in the next six to 12 months.

However, Mr Finn said it was not the rated power of the fast charger that gave it its competitive advantage, as other chargers would be able to run at the same rate.

“The charge rate has to be compatible with the vehicle’s systems,” he said.

“The charger and the vehicle’s charging system have to work in concert. So we can’t put more current in than the vehicle manufacturer has designed the battery pack to take.

EV-Growth-Diagram“It’s a limited way to compete, on speed. That’s not really where the buying decision is made. It is usually made on how easy it is to maintain these things once they are in the ground. That’s important.”

Tritium’s advantage lies in its patented liquid-cooled transformer that works at high frequency. It weighs 12kg versus 200kg for a traditional transformer with a metal heat-sink.

The cooling is handled by a radiator made by PWR, another Brisbane-based company whose radiators are used in Formula One and other top-level motor sport.

Having a liquid-cooled system rather than air cooled means the Tritium charger can work in a wider temperature range – from minus 35 degrees to plus 50 degrees – and needs much less maintenance.

“The lighter transformer means that, rather than our charging station weighing 600kg, it weighs 160kg. It makes it a lot easier to handle, a lot easier to transport. It just makes the whole process a lot simpler.”

It also means that Tritium fast chargers are the only fast chargers that can be air freighted.

“That is the one thing that has enabled us to exist in Australia and export to the US and Europe in some sort of economic fashion.

“That wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. We would have already had to establish manufacturing facilities in those other countries to support them.”

While the new fast charger is three times more powerful than the original 50kW unit, the new domestic charger is a quarter the size, at 12.5kW.

Charger-Speed-Diagram“Where you put power directly into the battery pack with DC charging, not AC charging, we have direction interaction, so you might think that 12.5kW is not that fast.

“But that is what we are aiming at for the home and work place. What it will enable us to do with that, it’s actually enough power to power the home.”

“So you will be able to have interruptible power supply functionality using your car to power your home. You will be able to put power from your solar array and preferentially put that into your vehicle.”

Mr Finn said the battery packs in cars were much larger than the battery packs being installed in houses now.

“Even the Nissan Leaf has a 20kWh pack, the Chevy Spark has a 50kWh pack and the Teslas already have 85kWh pack, so they are very large packs that are capable of running your home for days on end.

“So it’s a very different proposition to putting a small 2kWh or 5kWh battery pack in the home purposely for energy storage.”

The $5 million capital injection has come from two sources. Half the funds have come from the Queensland government’s $40 million Business Development Fund (BDF) and half from Tritium’s existing shareholders.

The new equity represents a 50 per cent increase on the almost $10 million shareholders have already invested.

The BDF stands to make a profit on the investment as the existing shareholders have agreed to buy out the shares held by BDF after two years.

Mr Finn said Tritium was currently breaking even at its current production rate of around 700 fast chargers a year and was planning to expand production to accommodate the introduction of the new products.

“It’s been quite a dramatic uptake and it’s come off the back of some long hard work proving ourselves.

“The international market for EVs is beginning to accelerate and with the maturity of our product and a strong foothold overseas, we are well placed to capitalise on our experience and knowledge of building successful charging infrastructure,” Mr Finn said.

“We are the only Australian company to design and manufacture EV charging stations locally and our Veefil units are installed globally on major charging networks and fast-charging highways.”

In March 2015, Tritium signed a distribution agreement with ChargePoint, the largest EV charging network in the US. ChargePoint operates around 75 per cent of the EV charging outlets in the US.

Tritium also makes controllers for electric motors and its Wavesculptor inverter is used by almost all the solar racing car teams around the world. Other products include an EV driver control unit and battery management systems.

By Ian Porter

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