Wallbox 2.0: Just charging is no longer enough

The new Webasto wallbox is quite unobtrusive. Compact, black, without large screens or other showmanship. But the name Unite already gives an idea of ​​where the small AC charging stations are headed. They must be intelligent and networked. Unite also implements the local dynamic load management. In this way, the mains is not overloaded, but the charging capacity is also reduced if too many batteries are sucked from the mains – to more than one wall box.

Up to 32 wall boxes in a network

“With Unite, we can operate 32 wall boxes on a low-voltage circuit, which communicates with each other and dynamically adjusts the charging effect,” explains Karl Kolmsee, Director Product Portfolio at Webasto. This makes Unite suitable for underground parking spaces in apartment buildings or large parking spaces in front of supermarkets and gyms.

Even. From the autumn, the Wallbox will use two certified meters. One for the MID (Measurement Instruments Directive), which is used in many European countries, and then (from the autumn) one for compliance with the calibration laws in Germany and Austria. This allows private and commercial users to bill their charging capacity in a tax-compatible way. It almost goes without saying that these charging stations can be conveniently controlled via an app.

Just a few meters from the Webasto grandstand, the Spanish competitor Wallbox also plays the one-for-all card and presents “Pulsar Max”. Also a small, handy wall box with lighting (after all, the Iberians can not quite get out of the skin), which up to 50 users can use thanks to the energy management system for power sharing. The price is relatively manageable at around 750 euros. Especially when you consider that the high-tech wall boxes can cost over 1,000 euros, which is certainly an argument, especially after the end of the state subsidy for private wall boxes.

Energy storage as a partner

With the EnerSys 123 charging station, the motto is “all in one”. Because the 30 kW charging station allows you to supplement it with a 20 kW energy storage unit and fill it with a 10 kW photovoltaic system. Although this charging station is significantly larger than a wall box, its flexibility is interesting – especially for fleet operators or hotel owners. More elegant is the narrow, almost graceful Elinta Charge “CityCharge V2” from Lithuania, which also won the design award “Red Dot” and is therefore mentioned here.

On it “Power2Drive Europe”, the international fair for charging infrastructure and electromobility in Munich, the number of wallbox providers was huge. Some manufacturers of charging devices such as Webasto, Mennekes, Heidelberg, ABL, Keba, Schneider Electric and Kostal are known by many electric car enthusiasts in this country in connection with the federal government’s multi-billion dollar program, others knew only real insiders.

The current flows in two directions

In addition to connection options, electric filling stations in the home must be more powerful and flexible in the future. 22 kW charging power is now standard for a wall box. UU GreenPower already offers vehicle-to-network functionality on paper, but it still promises the future at the moment. According to Webasto CEO Kolmsee, it will probably take another five years before this detail is ready for use.

In addition to performance, portable chargers have long had nothing in common with the stone-heavy, unwieldy bits of the past. With many chargers having the addition “Go” in their name, the main purpose is to charge safely at the household outlet. The mobile “Porty” charger from the Slovak manufacturer ejoin goes a step further – similar to the well-known “Juice Booster” from Switzerland: It delivers the combination of extremely compact dimensions and a charging option of up to 22 kW.

“The car becomes a power source”

After the tour, we talked in more detail about the latest trends at the fair with Webasto Manager Kolmsee.

Karl Kolmsee
The former E.On and Arriva manager is responsible for product portfolio management at Webasto in Stockdorf near Munich. Photo: Webasto

Sir. Kolmsee, two-way charging seems to be getting more and more important. How are you?

There are three different use cases for two-way charging: Vehicle for load, where the car acts as a power source for electronic devices. It will catch on very quickly. The second approach is vehicle to home. The car battery supplies the mains in your own home. The third is the vehicle for the network. With vehicle for home and vehicle for network, the requirements for the wall box are increasing, either to create a circuit or to synchronize itself.

What is the problem with the last two use cases?

Both require the right vehicle and the corresponding rules. Webasto is already testing prototypes of a two-way DC charger. But we will not bring it to market until it is clear in which direction it is going. The vehicle-to-home store will establish itself over the next two to three years. In the DA-CH region, 150,000 new storage systems are installed for the home every year. Here, the vehicle then serves as extra storage.

However, DC charging also charges the electric car’s battery, which ages faster …

You are right that gentle AC charging is better for battery management. However, battery development has now gone so far that they can cover an extremely large number of charging cycles. This means that the issue of AC or DC charging is no longer crucial to the progress of electromobility.

So these batteries can also power the vehicle to the mains?

That’s a good point. I was just referring to charging a battery. For vehicles for mains, where the vehicle battery must supply mains-related power, ie. batteries are discharged extremely fast except for a certain percentage, car manufacturers and energy suppliers must agree on what is allowed and what is not. But it still lies in the future.

How far away is the future?

We are talking more about five than two years.

“Vehicle-to-Grid is Still a Dream of the Future”

What does a wallbox need to do for Vehicle to Grid to work?

It’s not the technology. We know two-way charging from the inverter sector. Solar cell systems are exactly that. It’s more about the question of how cheap this technology can be offered, and about the rules that define the interaction between the owner of the vehicle and the energy supplier. If you are standing by a public charging station, it must first recognize the car. For this we need ISO 15118, ie a standard for two-way communication between electric cars and charging stations. It is not implemented everywhere yet.

What does the battery look like?

Not all batteries are suitable for this. We are talking about batteries from the light commercial vehicle sector with a capacity of 150 kilowatt hours and more. This also applies to buses that are parked at night and have an intermediate buffer. In this area, vehicle to grid is also a service that I consciously deliver.

The subsidy program for the purchase of private wall boxes has now expired. How has the order situation developed since then?

After the end of the subsidy, demand fell briefly. It shows that the customer is very price sensitive when it comes to wallboxes. But it also shows that the Wallbox has entered the general market. Just three or four years ago, it was a technological product where the price did not matter. The wallboxes are now consumer electronics, which is why the short dive in demand is over. We observe a differentiation of the market. In part, we have a very simple wall box that is also mounted with low power. In return, we have wall boxes that are integrated into a single system. Then the price is not so important, but the integration ability. This applies first and foremost to the semi-public sector.

What will a wallbox cost in the future?

Today we have a price range between 450 and 1,500 euros. Whereby the cheap devices are no longer cheaper. In the upper range it will melt down a bit and the price will flatten out at around 1,200 euros for very high quality products.

“Of course, the power grid is stressed.”

Do you hope the federal government will resume funding for wall boxes?

In general, every business is happy to have their products promoted. On the other hand, the end of the subsidy has meant that the semi-public sector, ie with industrial customers such as car fleet companies or supermarket car parks, is strengthened. It’s one of Webasto’s strengths. We do not want to tell politicians what to do. Especially as the semi-public sector in Germany and other European countries continues to be funded.

Can you also meet the demand? Keywords semiconductor crisis.

All companies are affected by the semiconductor crisis. We buy our printed circuit boards all over the world and can therefore supply all our wall boxes. This is because companies like Webasto, Siemens or ABB have experience in how to maintain supply chains even in such circumstances.

How do you see the future of the wallbox?

We have developed a reservation feature that allows multiple users to unlock for a certain period of time. This is of particular interest for underground car parks in multi-storey buildings or large company car parks. The semi-public area, ie the fitness center, hotel or supermarket, is becoming increasingly important.

How does the increasing number of wall boxes affect the electricity grid?

Of course, the electricity grid is stressed. That is why the connection between the electricity grid and the charging solution is so important. You must be able to intelligently control the large consumers such as the charging solution or the heat pump.

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