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The future’s green; the future’s electric

02 August 2010

Insys Microelectronics plays a key role in RWE’s influential e-mobility project, a Europe-leading scheme to bring ‘plug-and-play’ functionality to electric car charging and encourage the mass take-up of electric vehicles in German cities

Pull up to a station, plug in the car, recharge, pay and then be on your way; drivers of electric cars want their charging experience to be just as easy as a ‘fill up’ at a petrol station. Now, thanks in no small part to the work of Insys Microelectronics, a technology partner of German electricity producer RWE, that ambition may be close to being fulfilled.

Responsible for the ambitious ‘e-mobility’ project, RWE will install electric vehicle charging stations in various German cities, giving the everyday use of electrical vehicles a major boost in that country.
Highly efficient, quiet and (when charged via renewable electrical resources) emissions-free, the electric vehicle promises much for the future, but charging batteries clearly differs from conventional refuelling. Even though high-performance lithium-ion batteries are in use today, it always takes longer to fully charge the battery than to fill up at the petrol station.

Electric cars must be charged regularly and preferably when they are parked. RWE’s plan is to enable this by installing a close-meshed network of charging stations, with the e-mobility project as a starting point. Apart from high availability, a simple charging process and easy billing are also important factors that will ultimately dictate the success of this system.

It all down to the communications
An experienced operator in the industrial data communications sector, Insys has turned its skills to the e-mobility project, equipping the charging stations with control computers and industrial programmable controller modems, to provide an uncomplicated charging process and simple invoicing. These custom-built devices handle the communication between car, charging station and the clearing centre responsible for the billing operation.

Another important factor that had to be taken into account is providing users with the freedom to choose their preferred energy provider. All data communication is handled by the Insys-developed RWE e-mobility LSG control computer and the RWE e-mobility PLC power line modem.

Data communication between the charging station and car runs via the power line modem. The data connection between the charging station and the energy provider's clearing centre is established by the RWE e-mobility LSG unit via the mobile radio-based data transmission service GPRS.

Battery recharging proceeds as follows: the user parks the car next to the charging station and connects it via a charging cable. The car sends its identification data automatically to the charging station via this cable. The station then gathers tariff information from the clearing house and displays it to the user. Meanwhile, the integrated charge controller monitors the energy flow, and just like an conventional petrol pump, a counter in the charging station measures the amount of energy released.

After the charging process is completed, the control computer sends a data packet containing measured values to the clearing house for further processing. The clearing house then forwards the billing data to the operator of the charging station, who invoices the user. A standardised protocol co-developed by Insys, which handles the complete communication between vehicle and charging station, ensures a comprehensive and operator-independent clearing operation.
 


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