Electric Charging for eVTOL Aircraft Is Different From Cars

If you think you can model eVTOL aircraft charging based on the same system used for electric vehicles, think again.

That’s a message from Josh Portlock, CTO of Electro, an Australian-based company that makes electric aircraft charging products. Portlock recently pitched at the Vertical Aviation Safety Team (VAST) conference.

“The electric aviation revolution is coming and will require a high-power, standardized charging infrastructure to scale with global demand,” Portlock said. “Aircraft charging is very different from car charging. Aircraft cannot drive directly to a charger like a car does and they have a wingspan that has to be dealt with. There’s a good chance that you’ll have to move the charger to connect it to the aircraft, and maybe half a dozen aircraft can get in the way. .”

eVTOL charging system

Airplanes will need more power. This means thicker, longer and heavier charging cables, perhaps an integrated cooling system for MW functionality, higher voltages to the site and the ability to bank power on site from both the grid and onsite. Generation from sources such as sunlight.

The industry should also continue to work towards standardizing charging hardware, including power plugs. “There are more than half a dozen different DC fast-charging standards in the world,” Portlock said. “If you’re a Tesla, so be it. [electric car] We manufacture millions of cars, have hundreds of engineers, and are able to meet all of these different standards when shipping cars around the world. But for low-volume aircraft manufacturers with international markets, not so much. We want the same aircraft to charge to the same standard anywhere in the world.As [eVTOL] As aircraft have longer range, we want to be able to fly between regions and countries without having to use adapters or carry additional charging hardware. ”

That philosophy includes avoiding AC/DC charging converters on aircraft and AC couplers on power plugs, and using portable DC fast chargers on wheels with dual ports that can be easily transported to the aircraft by one person. increase. Electro has these Rapid We have developed several series DC chargers.

The 80 kW charger features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, enables telemetry reporting and over-the-air software updates, and is IP53 rated for splash and dust resistance. (IP or “international protection” is a standard developed by the Comité Européen de Normalization Electrotechnique to assess the resistance of electronic devices to external influences.)

According to Portlock, the focus on DC charging eliminates the weight, cost, and complexity associated with the ability to plug directly into AC. “There are many adapters in the automotive industry, some of which are illegal and not recommended for safety reasons. He said.

Alongside the charger, Electro developed the Electro Management System (EMS), which Portlock calls “the brain of our charging system.” It is installed in the latest smart charger and is also sold to aircraft manufacturers, [aircraft instrument panel] or [charging] inlet, permission [customers] Adopt AS6968 quickly and work with your preferred battery management system to communicate with redundant battery pairs.

“The EMS acts as an entrance control system outside the aircraft, [ground] The charging crew can quickly check the battery status and determine if it has reached the required capacity for the next mission,” explained Portlock. Placing the EMS outside the aircraft would eliminate the need for people in the cockpit during charging and would allow ground crew to “monitor and decide when to end charging. Our operations are much more time efficient as we can focus on the battery and ground crew can focus on charging.” EMS in combination with chargers enables remote monitoring, billing and maintenance including over-the-air updates. It also makes it easier to initiate charging remotely.

“The aircraft can be set to idle, sleep, or completely off, and can wake up on the charger and initiate charging remotely when needed,” said Portlock.

The company is also working on 200 kW and 400 kW superchargers for larger electric aircraft, but the feasibility of using such devices will depend on whether sufficient power is available in Birchport or an airport. depends on “The real bottleneck of the charging infrastructure is the energy system. Where does the energy come from?” asked Portlock.

powering the grid

He believes the answer requires a multifaceted solution. “Because airports often have a limited amount of grid connections, adding energy storage systems to compensate for peak power is critical. Adding solar to recharge these energy storage systems is critical. is clearly a smart, cost-effective and renewable way to provide that energy – it’s a balancing act: you can’t use too much or too little solar power. not. [storage] Do not use batteries. These systems have to be right-sized to meet the fleet’s energy needs,” he said.

Rather than focusing on an airport-wide solution, Electro is developing a “smart hangar” designed to allow airports, aircraft manufacturers and operators to size their solar and storage systems, said Portlock. said Mr. A smart hangar is a scalable solution consisting of multiple components connected by smart communication systems and chargers. Not only can each hangar system scale with changing fleet sizes, but multiple hangar systems can be linked together to create a “virtual power plant” at the airport.

“A smart hangar consists of six or more subsystems,” Portlock explains. “Our chargers and smarts within them communicate with energy storage systems and renewable energy generation sources. Batteries are also highly scalable, starting with, for example, lithium phosphate batteries for affordable stationary energy storage systems, and in the future can be supplemented by repurposed aircraft batteries. This scalable battery architecture is critical to the future of airports.The virtual power station is an overlay cloud software that communicates with all systems, including multiple different airport hangars, so that power can actually be aggregated and shared. will do so.”

Portlock emphasized the need for “dynamic load management” to make the system work. “It is important to maximize sustainable energy consumption, minimize capital expenditures and monetize smart hangars. Because we can, we can share the extra energy if the solution is too big, and ultimately more self-consumption evidence.

He said a typical smart hangar customer develops capabilities in stages. “First, we will size the smart hangar for self-consumption of existing loads. In doing so, it aggregates the existing grid connections into a sustainable energy and storage system.Stage 2 is an embedded network with peer Being able to trade on a two-peer basis so that excess solar can be fully utilized in the neighborhood without necessarily returning it to the main grid with minimal return on investment.

“Aggregating enough of these energy storage and solar systems at airports will enable multi-MW capable grid augmentation, and virtual power plant software will aggregate distributed energy and enable peak demand and frequency control. , we can also effectively give back to the community by providing battery backup systems for emergency services within the airport district,” said Portlock.

But even all of this renewable peer-to-peer capability won’t completely alleviate the need to upgrade power services from the grid at smaller airports and helipads, Portlock said. “This he is a mixture of the two. We need a grid connection for cloudy days and we need renewable energy for affordable power.”

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