The exponential power of innovation

A groundbreaking innovation developed in the 1980’s enables ABB to deliver innovative, smart mobility solutions for a sustainable future.

This year three scientists, John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino, have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries. Today this lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery, which is used in everything from mobile phones to laptops, is also enabling the development of long-range electric cars and the storage of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power

ABB, a technology leader in the field of sustainable mobility, has been innovating clean-transportation solutions since the late 19th century, when one of its predecessor companies began helping Switzerland use electric-train technologies to conquer the Alps. Today, ABB’s wide range of energy-efficient products and systems continues to pave the way for sustainable electric mobility on the road, on water and on rail around the globe, which reflects how a scientific breakthrough can ultimately enhance the lives of millions, as they live and work at a time when the need for a sustainable future is ever growing.

As part of our Noble Partnership series, here we take a look at what ABB is doing for the future of mobility.

ABB’s fast charging solutions for cars and buses

The global demand for powerful and energy efficient electric vehicle (EV) charging stations is growing like never before; the number of electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars on the road reached 5.6 million in the beginning of 2019 and is expected to rise to 125 million by 2030 according to the International Energy Agency. With more than 11,000 DC fast chargers sold across 76 countries, ABB has the largest installed base worldwide. Among these chargers is the Terra HP, launched in 2018. It is the first 350 kW fast charger on the market and has the power to add 200 km of range to an electric car in just eight minutes. ABB’s Terra HP high power EV chargers have been chosen by Electrify America, a historic project aiming to support a world-class EV charging network across the United States. In addition, ABB has been selected as the main technology partner and supplier of fast charging systems by IONITY – a joint venture of the BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company and the Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche – which plans to build a network of 400 EV fast charging stations across 24 European countries.

For electric buses, ABB is ensuring sustainable commuter mobility with the TOSA flash-charging infrastructure. It can replenish electric bus batteries in only 20 seconds with a power burst of 600 kW via overhead contacts at selected stops as passengers board and exit. TOSA buses, which are in service on the Swiss city of Geneva's airport route, could ultimately reduce local carbon dioxide emissions by 1,000 tons annually. In the first week of March 2019, the operator celebrated the first 500,000 km of successful operation on this line. The same concept was inaugurated this fall in Nantes, France, where 20 buses are fast charged en-route by eight stations.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the world’s only global all- electric motor racing series, brings electrifying race experiences to some of the most exciting cities around the world, enabling a broad and diverse audience to experience the power of e-mobility first hand. Acting as the race series’ title partner, ABB works with Formula E to develop and test technologies that will help further refine the design and functionality of electric vehicles. Building on this partnership, ABB provides the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy with Terra HP fast chargers as the race series’ official charging partner. As the first, all-electric, production-based car support series to the ABB FIA Formula E Championship, the Jaguar I-PACE eTrophy showcases the potential for using electric racing infrastructures in conventional cars, highlighting how near the future of mobility is.

Paving the way for e-mobility on water and in the mountains

Maritime transportation is responsible for about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. That is why the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target to reduce global shipping emissions by at least 50 percent annually by 2050 from 2008 levels. ABB has been providing electrical systems for vessels, whose electrification is an important driver to reach IMO’s ambitious target, since the early twentieth century. Today, more than 1,300 ships employ ABB’s electric system.

Earlier this year, The Maid of Mist, a Niagara Falls tour operator, ordered two new passenger vessels that will operate on pure electric power. These newbuilds will become the first US-built all electric vessels. Benefitting from ABB’s zero-emission technology, guests will experience the Niagara Falls undisturbed by engine noise, vibration or exhaust fumes from a conventional engine. To make the voyage entirely emission-free, the batteries will be charged using locally produced hydropower. In another iconic project, ABB’s powers Visions of the Fjords. The futuristic hybrid ferry carries up to 400 tourists between Flåm and Gudvangen along the Nærøyfjord in the west of Norway, a distance of around 32 km. Once it has arrived in the most scenic part of the fjord, it switches to battery power, allowing sightseers to enjoy the nature in almost complete silence at around 8 knots (approx. 15 km/h). The fjord is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List because it remains largely unspoiled by human development, and the ferry is designed with the surroundings in mind.

  • Maid of the Mist two new passenger vessels that will operate on pure electric power
  • Vision of the Fjords, a futuristic hybrid ferry in Norway

ABB’s prowess has also paved the way for efficient and safe traversing of mountains. For more than a century ABB has provided the enabling technologies for the Jungfrau Railway that links the Swiss town of Grindelwald to Europe’s highest-altitude train station, the Jungfraujoch (3,454 meters above sea level). Thanks to ABB’s custom-made drive system, the Jungfrau Railway trains can operate safely and without interruption throughout the year, even during heavy snowfall. Also, for over a century, ABB has been providing the electrical equipment for the traction motors and a large part of the power of the Rhaetian Railways. It has been ABB’s traction innovations that turned Rhaetian trains into energy-saving Alpine icebreakers able to meet the demands of the high Bernina pass, which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. That same breakthrough technology is now being used in railways in China to ensure secure operations under harsh conditions.

Jungfrau Railway in the Swiss Alps
Jungfrau Railway in the Swiss Alps

Other examples of ABB’s e-mobility technology in the mountains include ABB motors that power the world’s steepest funicular railway, the Stoosbahn, in the Swiss canton of Schwyz, and the Zugspitze cableway, an ABB-powered cable car system taking as many as 580 passengers an hour to Germany’s highest Alp peak. The Zugspitze cableway set several world records, including the highest elevation difference, and longest span – more than 3.2 kilometers – between base station and peak. ABB technology also plays a crucial role in the world’s longest railway tunnel, the Gotthard Base tunnel (57 km), which opened in 2016. ABB supplied the major electrical components for the entire power supply of the tunnel infrastructure, as well as the power and control systems for the ventilation system.

The future of mobility

Going forward, the solid foundation that ABB has established for mobility leadership will grow alongside the burgeoning uptake of emissions-free transport. Support for this mobility-centric future will require robust Industrial Internet solutions leveraging cloud-based technology. Here, ABB Ability™, the unified, cross-industry digital offering, provides an extensive portfolio of solutions: it enables remote management of EV charging stations, real-time data from vessels around the world, dynamic positioning simplifying ship maneuvering via touchscreen control as well as predictive maintenance, so that service personnel can be dispatched before a failure occurs.

Next year, the future of mobility will be one step closer. Europe's largest and most advanced lithium-ion battery factory, built by Northvolt, is expected to start production. ABB and Northvolt entered a wide-ranging supply and technology partnership, set to develop battery solutions for mobile and stationary application, including the potential sourcing of batteries. Supported by ABB’s industrial automation expertise, integrating robotics, machine and factory automation, electrification and ABB AbilityTM solutions, the factory located in Sweden will supply European customers in the automotive and key industries with high quality and customizable battery solutions.


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