The use of the E-Cat on electric vehicles is very far in time, as the development and authorization process of a technology for “on board” use takes about 10 years, as revealed to Andrea Rossi a few years ago by the CEO of Volvo himself, if I remember correctly. Therefore, in the meantime electric vehicles will have to be recharged from an external energy source.

The design of the next generation refueling stations – that is, capable of managing vehicles using electric traction – poses a significant problem as regards the energy part. I know it well because two years ago I was contacted by a leading company in this sector for advice on how to deal with this evaluating all the known energy technologies.

The refueling stations of the latest generation will refuel cars and electric vehicles (EV), cars and hydrogen vehicles (H2) and will have to be able to replace car batteries in a very short time (about 90 seconds). The goal is that these stations are as self-sufficient as possible for the energy required to recharge the batteries in the stack and for operations.

The future is represented by electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicles but, also with traditional renewable energies, energy cannot be produced on site except in a small part.

The real problem is that of the energy supply chain. A typical single charging column, in fact, has a power of 350 kW from each socket, so if it has to recharge several battery packs and / or vehicles per day it consumes a huge amount of energy, which naturally increases as it is saturated with its use, due to the growing diffusion of these vehicles.

The daily, monthly and annual consumption of a column of this type is really relevant and, to date, there are no pure renewable energy systems – such as for example, solar photovoltaic – which can compensate for this consumption. And I’m not talking about an entire national network, but also about a single group of columns, which alone would consume energy like a small town.

Therefore, when we talk about “Mobility of the future”, we must have the strength and the technical ability to guarantee a complete and integrated supply chain of energy with minimal environmental impact, a distribution network that has a logic of real use, and above all a design vision and a planning that optimizes everything in the cheapest way that is possible.

Charging at home or at work poses no problems: it is already possible today via a standard power supply point (240 volt AC / 15 A power supply). The charge rate will depend on the on-board charger of the electric vehicle: from 2.5 kilowatts (kW) to 7 kW is normal. So at 2.5 kW, a Nissan Leaf will be fully charged overnight.

EV recharge at home requires at least 2.5 kW for many hours.

Of course, it is also possible to recharge the battery pack at public charging points. The publicly accessible “fast charger” or “super charger” sockets provide battery power at a faster speed. The charging speed is generally between 25 kW and 135 kW and can recharge an electric vehicle battery in about 30 minutes.

For electric vehicles, the problem of charging arises, in fact, in “long” trips and certainly not in use in the city, where home (and / or condominium and / or office) charging is already in itself more than sufficient for the daily requirement of kilometers. Therefore, in particular along motorways and state roads, Electric Charging Stations are needed, possibly self-powered.

EV recharge along motorways is a major problem with a huge number of vehicles to recharge. Traditional recharging stations and electric recharging lanes seem not to be the best options.

In practice, it is necessary to guarantee a battery recharging system that is well located in a capillary way only and exclusively on the motorway network and high-traffic roads, such as ring roads or junctions. This allows you to position a series of specific refueling stations, possibly 80/90% self-powered for their energy needs.

In this way, it would be possible to perform in situ: the on-demand production of hydrogen produced through new and efficient electrolysis processes; charging stacks of electric batteries. There would be no storage of oversized hydrogen, therefore, much less no transport, neither of hydrogen nor of electric batteries recharged elsewhere, where energy is more available.

Therefore, hydrogen would be used for a partial storage of energy, in particular if this comes from a renewable source, e.g. daytime (photovoltaic) or intermittent (wind). Hydrogen is therefore produced when needed and in the minimum quantities necessary for the purpose. The energy is managed through storage Fuel Cells and then sent to the vehicle charging sockets.

The same Hydrogen thus produced could, in the future, also supply pure propulsion cars with developing hydrogen. The energy balance between the production of hydrogen, the generation of energy and its storage are significantly in favor of this system, which does not completely eliminate the need for energy from the network, but reduces it in a consistent and tangible way.

But which energy source can actually be used for these self-powered recharge stations? And what is the relative environmental impact? As an order of magnitude, we consider that such a recharging station must be able to guarantee the rapid replacement (swap) of about 50 35 kW battery packs every hour in as many electric vehicles.

The fast battery swap system being developed for Tesla cars.

Therefore, the recharging station must be able to recharge each of these battery packs in half an hour at 80%. Therefore, as in the case of charging at home or in the office, it is necessary to be able to supply about 25 kW for half an hour (equal to 12.5 kWh), all multiplied by 50 vehicles per hour, which means having a available power of 25 kW x 25 battery packs = 625 kW!

Estimated power requirements for a recharging station of Electric Vehicles (EV).

It is clear that, since in the early years at least 15,000 of these recharging stations are needed along or near the Italian motorway network, their supply with renewable sources – at least in our country – is far from trivial. In fact, not even a 1 MW photovoltaic system would really be able to guarantee the daily energy requirement.

Not to mention the environmental impact: the photovoltaic subtracts large portions of land or otherwise of territory from other uses; the large wind farm has a significant landscape and sound impact for those who live near the blades; even the power supply from the national electricity grid would require more capable power lines, with an increase in the level of electrosmog.

The traditional way to perform the recharge of battery packs for battery swap. Only the E-Cat technology would allow in next years to recharge battery pack directly on site.

At present, therefore, the only solution that promises to be reasonable for the construction of self-powered recharging stations is the use of E-Cat technology, which is capable of constantly supplying large quantities of energy in situ over time, with a zero environmental impact, since a 1 MW generator would occupy no more than 1 cubic meter of space.

The E-Cat is a reactor developed in three different generations by Andrea Rossi, now with the help of a team of specialists. It is able to produce, in addition to thermal energy, electricity directly, thus allowing self-sustenance. Among the many competing technologies that promise to do the same in a few years, it is the most interesting and closest to commercialization.

Mario Menichella

(physicist, formerly National Institute of Nuclear Physics)