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More efficient electricity distribution through modern high-voltage transformers

Modern high-voltage transformers enable more efficient electricity distribution

Faster Charging – Electromobility Is Picking Up Speed

The higher-performing the transformer, the shorter the charging time for electric cars

© photos: thyssenkrupp Steel, Getty Images

The success of electromobility depends on several factors, not least the expansion and standardization of the charging infrastructure. Above all, it will be crucial to make the switch from conventional charging stations to fast-charging columns.

Ask any electric car driver what they want out of a charging infrastructure, and they’ll be quick to say the following: Charging columns should be easy to find and access. They should be simple to use and feature a transparent payment model – and, of course, they should work quickly; charging electric cars has been a time-consuming process so far.

“For us, electromobility isn’t science fiction.”

Christian Hecht, Head of Product Development at the Electrical Steel business unit
Fast-charging columns accelerate electromobility
Fast-charging columns accelerate electromobility

Charging time depends not only on the battery capacity and the charging technology of the respective electric vehicle, but also on the charging column itself. The rule of thumb is: The lower the capacity of the power source, the longer charging will take. Conventional charging stations currently have a typical capacity of 22 kilowatts, which corresponds to a charging time of two to five hours.

Electrical steel in every charging column

A fast-charging column, on the other hand, boasts a capacity of 50 kilowatts, since it is operated with direct current instead of alternating current, which reduces the charging time by around an hour on average. Meanwhile, “ultra-fast” charging columns currently have a capacity of 150 kilowatts, and are set to reach 350; they cut charging time down to between five and 20 minutes. That being said, this time estimate doesn’t take the respective vehicle charging technology into account, so it should only be taken as a guideline.

What does all that have to do with thyssenkrupp Steel? “It’s quite simple,” says Christian Hecht, Head of Product Development at the Electrical Steel business unit. “There’s a transformer in each charging column, and electrical steel is built into each transformer.” Put more precisely, this is grain oriented electric steel – and put even more precisely, it’s built into the core of each transformer. “Grain oriented electrical steel is always necessary whenever electrical voltage needs to be increased or decreased.”

Grain oriented electrical steel (shown here in a close-up)
Grain oriented electrical steel (shown here in a close-up) is incorporated into the transformer in each charging column

Energy efficiency cuts charging times

One of the reasons that charging electric cars has been taking so long is that the conventional charging columns currently in place were not built to be energy-efficient. “Power network operators and private investors didn’t equip the transformers in these columns with the best possible electrical steel,” says Hecht. As a result, electric cars take hours to charge because the transformers let too much energy go to waste.

Christian Hecht
Christian Hecht, Head of Product Development

Electrical Steel has come up with a solution for this challenge, based on the principle that the thinner the electrical steel, the lower the loss in energy. “That’s why you can only achieve energy efficiency with particularly high-quality electrical steel grades,” says Hecht. “These are made using a production process that has been perfectly coordinated across all facets of steel production, from the primary materials, to the casting-rolling line, through to our facilities in Gelsenkirchen.”

“Nobody wants to have a humming transformer standing in front of their house.”

Christian Hecht, Head of Product Development at the Electrical Steel business unit

Drivers currently charge their electric cars during extended periods when they don’t need to drive them – for instance, when they’re doing groceries, seeing a movie, sitting at a café, or when they’re at home (and have parked their car in the garage). As far as that last option is concerned, another requirement comes into play: The transformer must operate at a low noise level. Only the absolute highest-quality electrical steel grades, known as “top grades,” can ensure that the transformer can’t be heard during the charging process.

“That’s an important prerequisite, particularly when it comes to expanding the charging infrastructure in residential areas,” says Hecht. “Nobody wants to have humming transformers standing in front of their house.” To this end, Electrical Steel business unit has developed the top grades powercore® H 23 und powercore® H20, grain oriented steels that are both energy-efficient and ensure a low level of noise.

“For us, electromobility isn’t science fiction,” says Hecht. “We’ve fulfilled the technical prerequisites on our end and are already supplying customers with our materials, who use them to advance the energy transition.”

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