Smart charging infrastructure for Singapore port’s automated guided vehicles

With electric vehicle (EV) numbers growing rapidly, ABB is investing significantly in the development of new battery charging technology and its infrastructure. In a first for ABB, the company’s chargers will serve a fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) in commercial operation.

A desire to counteract poor urban air quality and alleviate global climate change concerns has led to booming EV demand. It is predicted that by 2040, there will be 559 million EVs on the road and 55 percent of all new car sales and 33 percent of the global fleet will be electric. In addition, some analysts anticipate that all new road vehicles will be entirely electric by 2030.

It is not only in the personal transport arena that EVs are making an impact: commercial applications are also seeing the benefits of EVs. Apart from their positive environmental aspects, EVs are also very suitable for automated applications, such as those fulfilled by AGVs.

AGVs have a range of advantages: no driver is needed so personnel can be redeployed to more productive tasks; performance and costs are predictable; AGVs do not tire and rarely err, therefore suiting the 24/7 operational requirement. Overall safety is improved as AGVs will operate in a more controlled environment and are designed to interface well within the automation environment in which they operate.

With so many EV types coming into operation, the rush is on to build charging stations. The installation of this essential infrastructure is one of the next big tasks for the EV industry and must happen faster than EV numbers grow.

ABB EV charger infrastructure for PSA Singapore

ABB has years of experience in developing, installing, commissioning and maintaining charging infrastructure, including several nationwide charger networks. ABB offers a wide portfolio — from compact AC wall boxes for home charging, through reliable DC fast-charging such as at road-side stations, to innovative on-demand electric-bus and heavy commercial-vehicle charging systems.

Connecting chargers using ABB Ability™ — ABB’s unified, cross-industry, digital offering that extends from device to edge to the cloud — enables fast global service, proactive maintenance, control system integration and a host of other benefits. ABB’s knowledge and comprehensive product portfolio well-position the company to deploy next-generation EV infrastructure.

This experience in EV charging infrastructure underpinned the decision by PSA to choose ABB as a partner in the major expansion of its port facilities.

Charging a port

When completed in 2040, PSA’s Tuas Port in Singapore will feature the world's largest fully automated container terminal. With an annual handling capacity of 65 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit), this future terminal will be a major milestone in Singapore’s development. The first berth will come into service in 2021 (image 1).

Image 1 - PSA container terminal in Singapore
Image 1 - PSA container terminal in Singapore

Automation will be the essential element in realizing a facility of this size, complexity and sophistication.

Operations at the terminal are set to start up in earnest in late 2021 when a fleet of 162 AGVs will begin to come into service progressively. These AGVs — to be phased-in over two years — are set to handle heavy shipping containers.

ABB and the Land Systems arm of ST Engineering worked closely together to secure the contract with PSA to deliver and commission integrated smart charging stations for this AGV fleet, to be implemented toward the end of 2020.

The contract includes eighteen smart fast charging stations with built-in fault tolerance and self-diagnostic features. Each station is constructed into a fully integrated eHouse on a prefabricated skid with the medium- and low-voltage switchgear, transformer and 450 kW high-power chargers with associated control and monitoring equipment. The solution demonstrates the benefits of combining EV charging and all supporting electrical infrastructure in a complete e-mobility solution (image 2).

Image 2 - ABB e-mobility solution for PSA container port
Image 2 - ABB e-mobility solution for PSA container port

ABB’s portfolio of heavy commercial electric vehicle chargers feature plug-in connector and automatic pantograph-up and pantograph-down connection options to provide charging to as wide a range of bus, truck and specialist vehicles as possible (image 3).

In the Tuas project as pantograph charging would be impeded by the presence of a container on the vehicle and side-access pantographs are unwieldy, specially designed and customized side-access, pin-type connectors from Stäubli are used (image 4). The specification for the pin connector was driven by PSA, working closely with Stäubli to design the connection solution that best suited the application. Combined Charging System (CCS), an open and universal charging protocol based on international standards, was applied for the communication between the electric vehicle and charging infrastructure.

PSA fleet management systems will centrally monitor the status of charging stations and AGV battery levels and schedule the AGVs for charging accordingly. Once the AGV has arrived at the designated charging station, it will signal to the charging station to start the charging session.

Image 3 - ABB heavy commercial vehicle chargers
Image 3 - ABB heavy commercial vehicle chargers

The ABB equipment communicates with the customer’s programmable logic controller (PLC) but, unusually, there is no connection to cloud services. At the request of PSA, the system needed to be islanded, which presented the additional challenge of defining a local-site solution for software updates and monitoring. Data is transmitted to the PLC, which then issues commands to the ABB charging infrastructure (start charging, stop charging, fault reset, etc.) and sends status queries. The PLC communicates with the fleet management system for real-time control and management of the charging operations. Operational and diagnostics data are logged at the Remote Fault Diagnostics System and can be used for further analysis and data trending.

Image 4 - A custom connector is utilized to facilitate DC fast charging for the AGVs
Image 4 - A custom connector is utilized to facilitate DC fast charging for the AGVs

Each charging station comprises three 150 kW AC-to-DC power conversion cabinets. This gives an element of redundancy as, should one cabinet be taken out of service (e.g. for maintenance or because of failure) 300 kW of high-power charging will remain in operation; temporarily having less charging capability is better than temporarily having none at all. Fully charging an AGV’s (third-party, 450–750V) battery takes around 20 minutes. As stand-alone equipment, the chargers have a standard IP54 enclosure rating, but when installed in the eHouse, protection from the harsh, sea-side environment is further improved.

Eighteen 450 kW stations are foreseen plus one, stand alone 150 kW charger cabinet for the customer’s workshop. ABB is responsible for the design, engineering, construction and commissioning of the entire eHouse, including charging infrastructure and the integration to the AGVs. The containerized implementation simplifies the whole job: the container is dropped on to site where ST Engineering will connect to the main power and where ABB will perform the commissioning.

Standardized solutions for grid connection

To support the growing demand for EVs and high-power charging, consideration must also be given as to how the power is delivered from the grid to the chargers. Often, investments must be made to increase the capacity of the electrical distribution system, but with the right combination of smart solutions, such as battery storage coupled with an energy management system, these costs can be controlled. ABB has over 100 years of experience in electrical distribution and is a leader in pre-engineered and scalable solutions that facilitate the dynamic growth of sustainable electric mobility.

ABB’s portfolio includes a wide range of grid connection modules. These modules are designed to fulfill different functionalities and comply with many standards including IEC and ANSI (image 5). In the Tuas megaport project, SF6, gas-insulated medium-voltage switchgear SafePlus is used to fulfill network requirements.

Further, the eHouse solution allows the chargers and the other electrical distribution equipment to be installed within the same assembly to minimize site works and makes installation more efficient. The ABB eHouse portfolio provides a modular plug-and-play solution for rapid deployment for e-mobility applications. All of the equipment is pre-tested to seamlessly work together, reducing on-site challenges associated with integrating newer technologies, such as EV charging. Additionally, the modular nature of the design allows PSA to relocate the charging stations to different areas of the terminal port as needed.

Image 5 - SafeRing medium-voltage switchgear
Image 5 - SafeRing medium-voltage switchgear

Leading the charge

The PSA Singapore project brings together two of the biggest trends disrupting the mobility industry: the rise of automated guided vehicles and the adoption of EVs. ABB’s technology will enable fast charging of the AGVs which is vital for efficient container movement and for increasing the capacity of the port. The pioneering venture from PSA and ST Engineering marks the first time ABB’s chargers will be used to power a fleet of automated vehicles for commercial operation. This latest project will further accelerate Singapore’s transition to a future mobility ecosystem that is safer, cleaner and more accessible.

In a wider context, the fast-growing EV market is driving innovative and nimble thinking. ABB plays a leading role in the development of sustainable mobility with new, digital technologies and has participated in many projects around the world. Due to their cost-effectiveness and attractive environmental credentials, electric AGVs will feature in an ever-growing number of commercial operations. The Singapore project provides an ideal template for these applications.


[1] Z. Shahan, Clean Technica, “Electric Vehicle Sales Up 130% In 2018, 210% In Q4 2018 — US Electric Car Sales Report.” Available:


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