Race Is On For Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Engineering and technology company ABB (NYSE: ABB) announced the acquisition of Epyon B.V., a company developing fast-charging solutions for electric vehicles.

Epyon says its charging stations reduce charging times to 15 minutes, compared to 6-8 hours using a standard alternating current (AC) charger outlet. They’ve been used commercially since May 2010.

Last year ABB invested in San Francisco-based ECOtality, a clean electric transportation and storage technologies company, which enabled ABB to enter North America’s electric vehicle charging market. 

The growing number of electric vehicles is driving a global market opportunity for charging solutions including supporting technologies to equip the electrical grid with more sophisticated monitoring systems and software.

EV charging station unit sales are expected to multiply rapidly over the next five years, and reach 1.6 million units globally by 2015, according to Pike Research.

"This acquisition gives ABB access to competitive products, key network management software, and a robust maintenance service business model, which ideally complements our own offering," says Ulrich Spiesshofer, head of ABB’s Discrete Automation and Motion division.

Founded in 2005, Epyon is headquartered in Rijswijk, Netherlands, has an R&D center in Eindhoven and sales resources across Europe.

Epyon’s equipment and software also enables the charging station owner to monitor conditions and requirements of the station, linking billing and administrative needs. It provides a range of different charging methods for each of the station connections, enabling it to tailor charging to various start conditions, power requirements and charging times.

The acquisition is one of several big moves made by ABB over the last year and a half. In April, the company purchased a 35% stake in concentrating solar power company Novatec Solar.

In January, ABB agreed to acquire Obvient Strategies Inc., which was preceded by the purchases of three other smart grid companies – Key Solutions and Ventyx.

And in November 2010, ABB participated in a funding round for wave energy developer Aquamarine Power.

AeroVironment Competing for Fast Charging

AeroVironment (NASDAQ: AVAV) is also developing EV fast charging systems – 6 were just certified by Underwriters Labs,  a widely recognized independent product safety certification organization.

AeroVironment’s fast charging system fully charges an EV in under 30 minutes.

The company says its the first to provide a full lineup of UL-certified chargers, expanding the possibilities for both home and public charging in a multitude of locations so that drivers can refuel their EVs with confidence, no matter where they are.

It’s chargers are:

  • smart grid-enabled home charging stations;
  • commercial AC charging stations;
  • high-power DC fast charging stations that can fully charge a vehicle in under 30 minutes;
  • a standard 120 Volt AC charging cord that can be used with every EV and plug-in hybrid (PHEV). 

They also make EVBoostTM, a roadside assistance charging system for repair and tow service companies, and Web and mobile phone applications that link drivers remotely to their charging network for route planning and wireless payment.

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