How ABB and Formula E can help Italy embrace e-mobility

The technology and the love of cars are already in place. So is ABB, with a major presence in the country’s electric vehicle (EV) industry and clean-energy infrastructure.

As a showcase for the power and performance of electric cars, the ABB FIA Formula E Championship Series race in Rome provides a timely opportunity: a chance for Italy to spur public enthusiasm for the environmental and economic benefits of e-mobility.

As a partner in the fully-electric-car racing’s premiere series and a major participant in Rome and Italy’s energy ecosystem, ABB has a potentially big role to play in the country’s sustainable mobility future. After all, ABB already makes possible the delivery of renewable energy in the country – the type of electricity that is crucial to enabling electric vehicles to become the preferred, environmentally superior alternative to fossil-fuel cars.

The ABB FIA Formula E Championship makes its Italian debut in Rome on April 14, 2018
The ABB FIA Formula E Championship makes its Italian debut in Rome on April 14, 2018

And the electric car charging stations that ABB manufacturers in Italy, and which are being installed in the country and throughout Europe, will be vital to making electric cars alluring to Italy’s car-obsessed consumers.

Italy has more automobiles per capita – more than 600 for every 1,000 people – than any other country in Europe. But so far, the proportion of EVs in Italy is low by European standards.

And more than 10 percent of the cars on Italy’s roads are at least 20 years old. That statistic has “serious consequences for environmental and urban sustainability,’’ according to the study “E-Mobility Revolution” by The European House – Ambrosetti, a professional consulting group based in Italy. The report was produced in partnership with Enel, the multinational energy company, one of the main global integrated operators in the fields of electricity and gas.

By embracing EVs, Italy could go a long way toward meeting its carbon-reduction targets under the Paris climate accord.

‘‘ABB is integral to Italy’s adoption of electric vehicles,” says Frank Duggan, ABB President Europe. “And Italy, in turn, is an integral part of ABB’s EV charging business.”

The economic potential of e-mobility in Italy is huge, too, according to the European House study. Widespread adoption of electric cars – including the manufacturer and sale of EVs and the charging-station infrastructure – could pump 24 billion euros or more (more than $29 billion) into the Italian economy by the year 2025.

Expanding the EV-charging infrastructure

The good news is that Italy’s EV market has started to rapidly expand. Italian sales of EVs rose by 70 percent in 2017, one of the largest year-on-year growth rates in Europe.

One of the big impediments to consumer adoption of EVs, in Italy or anywhere else, has been the challenge of keeping the car batteries charged while traveling long distances. That’s why ABB’s fast-charging stations, supported by ABB Ability™ digital networking capabilities, are helping speed the rollout of electric cars. Within Europe, about two-thirds of the publicly available EV charging stations now in use are provided and supported by ABB. With more than 6,000 electric-vehicle charging stations installed in 60 countries, ABB is the global leader in this field.

ABB has provided charging stations in Italy as part of Unit-e project partly funded by the European Commission. The plan is a network of charging stations that will enable electric cars to make the 2,000 kilometer trip from Genoa to Dublin, Ireland. When the network is complete, drivers will be able to fast-charge their vehicles quickly and easily along the way, regardless of the EV’s make, model, voltage or payment system. About 38 fast charging stations have been added to the existing networks, mostly in Belgium but also in Italy, France and in the UK.

ABB charging infrastructure provides cloud-based, scalable remote monitoring and management, enabling station owners to monitor and control each charging station, diagnose faults and notify service teams, and easily manage transactions from different billing systems.

This combination of fast charging infrastructure and scalable monitoring and management unifies EV networks by making them interoperable and interconnected – to the benefit of consumers and network operators alike.

The flagship of ABB’s electric car charging stations is the Terra HP, which can operate at powers of up to 350 kilowatts and is able to add 300 kilometers of range to an EV in just a 12 minute session. Like most of ABB’s other EV charging systems, the Terra HP is manufactured at the Terranova Bracciolini facility in Italy’s Tuscany region.

Clean energy for sustainable transportation

E-mobility, of course, is truly a clean-energy technology only if the electricity comes from sustainable sources. ABB is helping operators of electric grids employ renewable energy in a variety of ways.

In Rome, where the Formula E race will be held, ABB has provided vital equipment for upgrading a hydropower station, the Salisano Hydro Power plant. It provides clean electricity from a national park about 45 kilometers northeast of the city.

Another source of Rome’s electricity comes from the island of Sardinia, more than 400 kilometers across the Tyrrhenian Sea. Partially produced from wind farms on the island, the electricity is transported by an undersea cable using ABB’s high voltage direct current (HVDC) technology.

Ultra high-voltage test hall
Ultra high-voltage test hall

By transmitting electricity in direct current (DC) mode, instead of the alternating current (AC) format used by utility grids, HVDC can carry power a long distance – with minimal loss of energy and with significantly less equipment along the way, compared with AC transmission. At the point where the DC power needs to be converted back to AC, ABB equipment makes the hand-off.

ABB has been a pioneer in HVDC technology for more than 60 years. It is that sort of long experience and expertise, and a legacy of innovation, that ABB brings to any field in which it gets involved – including e-mobility and Formula E racing. ‘‘The electric-car future is here,” says Duggan. “Whether in Italy, or around the world, ABB, is helping make EVs and e-mobility an everyday reality.”

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