Driven – Mobility Moment: Vince Carioti, Phoenix Contact

Electric vehicles are the future of automotive. The NEAR future. You’ll recognize this at AutoMobili-D, at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this year.

The wave is coming. If people have an opportunity to go to the auto show and the AutoMobili-D in January and look at all the new technologies that are there and especially visit the AutoMobili-D the exhibits and see some of the technologies there in the automotive market, expansion of automotives and the charging station manufacturers and the technology and autonomous vehicles, people are going to be blown away about what they see coming in the next years.

That was Vince Carioti, director at Phoenix Contact E-Mobility. He’s my guest today on Driven’s Mobility Moments Podcast. We’re talking about EVs, charging stations, range anxiety, and a lot more. Join us because this is cool stuff. I’m your host, Claire Charlton.

Vince, welcome to Mobility Moments Podcast. How are you today?

I’m terrific and thank you for the invite. It’s a pleasure being here.

Yeah, absolutely. So you work for a company. It’s actually an international company, but you’re located in Ann Arbor. You work for Phoenix Contact. Tell me about the work that this company does.

Well, I work for Phoenix contact and I work for a division of Phoenix contact, which is Phoenix Contact E-Mobility. So Phoenix Contact is a very large company. We’re about a 3 billion euro company and we’re an international company as you said. We’re in many, many different markets. Anything from automotive to food and processing and pharmaceutical and industry and wind energy and renewables and all the different industries and vertical markets you see. I’ve been involved in the automotive sector for about 25 years, and about two years on the mobility side.

Okay. Why Ann Arbor? Why is that a good place to be?

Well, it’s a great place simply because of the universities, the talent that’s here. We’re still central to the automotive industry. It’s where our Phoenix Contact Customer Technology Center is located. Actually, when we started this E-Mobility effort, they asked where I think we should do it, and we also have a technology center in San Jose right outside in Silicon Valley there. And I fought and thought, hey, with everything that’s going on in the Detroit area and in Michigan with the automotive industry and the progression of mobility and autonomous vehicles in the automotive industry, I thought it would be better to locate Phoenix Contact E-Mobility North America here in Ann Arbor. I guess I won the battle.

Yay. Good for you. Excellent. Let’s talk a little bit about what an average day in E-Mobility is like for you. What exactly do you do?

Well, we work with OEMs on the electrification of vehicles and we help them with the charger inlets for their vehicles, their charge profiles. We work with the suppliers of EVSCs or charging stations, both AC and DC stations, private or semi-public or public charging stations. So, we work with all those different entities and we help them with their solutions, supplying them components solutions and software to help grow the advancing e-mobility market.

So, can we get technical for just a minute, and I’m probably not the only person who gets confused when researching the different types of charging stations and charging opportunities for people who have plug-in electric vehicles or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. So can you talk a little bit about the AC, DC, 120 volt, 240 volt. What are all the differences?

Sure, sure. When you look at the AC charging and level one would be 120 volt, where you’d have an adapter maybe in your electric vehicle that you would plug into your wall in your garage or at your house and charge for maybe eight, 10 or 12 hours to charge that battery at a very slow rate. And then you look at level two, which would be the 220 or 240 volt circuit that you could have in your house, say in your garage. The same as maybe your electric dryer or your air compressor or something like that. And that cuts the charge time in half probably to four or five hours. It just gives you a much faster charge time because you’re going from say, you know, 15 amps to 32 to 40 amps with the 240 AC, so it does cut your charge time down.

Okay. So let’s talk a little bit and because you are in the role that you are in, I think that you’ll be able to speak to this. It’s confusing to me. Share with us about the vast differences in consumer preferences globally with regard to purchasing their next vehicle. So, I did a little bit of research, the Center for Automotive Research, your neighbor there in Ann Arbor, published a report called The Great Divide. And among other things it looked at the next vehicle preference among car purchasers in the United States. So about three percent said they would purchase a battery electric vehicle, 15 percent would purchase a hybrid electric vehicle. That’s very, very different from perhaps what consumers in China would say or in Germany or across Europe. Can you talk a little bit about what you know about the difference in preference for an electric vehicle for the next purchase?

Sure, sure. So I would say the education of the public is very important because people I think just don’t understand the charging concept. So, you know, of course, we started off with hybrid vehicles that weren’t plug-ins and we moved to plug-in hybrid vehicles that take a long time to charge because they’re AC, and then we go to full BEV vehicles, where people just don’t understand. They have charge anxiety and range anxiety and they don’t understand that, you know, hey, I’m driving this distance and I can’t get there because there isn’t a charging station. And sure that’s true. You know, the infrastructure isn’t built out yet.
So I think the preference for people with vehicles is going to come in time with the education of the public on the differences, the availability of charging stations, reducing that range anxiety and the charge time anxiety and those types of things. And that’s where the fast charging and DC charging and high power charging comes into play.

And I think once we educate the public on those different charging parameters and charging times and range anxiety, I think at that point people’s preferences are going to be moving towards a full BEV. And of course there aren’t that many BEVs out there that have the ranges. Sure you have your Teslas out there that get 200 or 300 miles to a charge and now you have the GM Bolt, which of course gives you, at least the common person doesn’t have to go out and spend $70,000 or $80,000 for an electric vehicle. They can get 210 or 220 miles out of a charge and are able to charge either AC or DC with a Chevy Bolt.

And I think as those vehicles are more available, as the automakers do more advertising, as we in the industry continue to educate people on the advantages and eliminate some of those anxieties, that’s going to really make a difference.

And it seems that the automotive manufacturers are making sweeping statements about the number of electric vehicles models they’ll have available for consumers to purchase. So GM says 20 all electric models by 2023. Ford says 40 electrified vehicles by 2022. And Volvo is saying that next year (2019), every vehicle that they introduce will be electrified to some degree. So it seems like we’ll have more and more options as consumers as we move forward.
But, can you talk a little bit about the benefits that consumers need to know about with regard to driving an electric vehicle?

Sure. I think one of the benefits is not having to stop at gas stations. You can charge at home. Eighty percent of your charging is done at home or work. You can drive the vehicle to work, plug it in. You can drive it home at night, plug it in and not have to stop at fuel stations. Of course, the environmental impact that it’s going to provide, even though we still have coal plants that provide some of the power, as time goes on, we eliminate some of those coal-fired plants and we move into more renewable energies.
Of course, the impact on the environment is big. I think that, it goes into even the autonomy side. I mean, autonomous vehicles, as more and more autonomous vehicles come out, they’re going to be electrified. So those benefits all are leading to the point where we have autonomous vehicles that are electrified. There’s less accidents, less human intervention, more capabilities for the public to be able to get public transportation or hail a vehicle that’s an electric vehicle and not have to worry about drivers, not have to worry about some of the traffic conditions because of maybe less vehicles on the road.

For me personally, I’m a technology guy and I think that having an electric vehicle as an early adopter is going to be, I guess I’m not really an early adopter yet because I don’t have that full BEV because I’m waiting for a vehicle that will allow me to get some of the miles that I need to get and not have range anxiety. So even people who are in industry suffer that range anxiety and I think as the technology for batteries continues to grow, there are more opportunities for vehicles to travel those miles and those distances without having that anxiety.

It’s just going to make people more comfortable even though the aspect of driving that vehicle could present some challenges in the fact that they feel that there are not enough charging stations out there. And that’s another thing that we need to look at doing is building out that infrastructure. We really need to work with the OEMs to help push that and the EVSC suppliers and to build out that infrastructure so that we do have that opportunity to get those vehicles and provide the benefits that are there in the electric vehicle side.

And you mentioned some of the commercial opportunities, commercial electric vehicles. Do you see that commercial electric vehicles will lead the way in the United States rather than consumer purchases, at least in the near future? So we’re talking about shared shuttles or we’re talking about delivery methods for people to have goods delivered using an electric vehicle or an electric something rather than a consumer go out and purchase an electric vehicle. What do you see with regard to that? It’s a very long question.

Being in the industry and working with the automotive OEMs and working with some of the companies that are doing delivery, working with some truck manufacturers and OEM truck manufacturers, it’s all kind of a parallel path. Everybody’s doing, in the past three years, I’ve seen a complete change in the amount of requests we get from all those different companies, it really is a parallel path.

I think that in 2020, 2021 and 22, you’re going to see more and more privately held electric vehicles. You’re going to see some of those delivery companies and fleet companies that are going to have more of those vehicles on the road and you’re going to see some of the big class one trucks that are going to be electrified also. So, who’s going to be first? I would say since there’s a headstart already on privately held electric vehicles, that’ll probably continue to take the lead, but I see the delivery services and class one right there with them. At least from what I see on my side.

Okay. And are there any breakthroughs in charging or battery technology that you can share with us that might be surprising to us?

Well, we at Phoenix Contact are working on a high powered charging solution that will be released in Europe for type two for the European market at the end of this year and by mid-year next year 2019 in the US for the type one North American market, which we, we call it a high powered charging system that allows you to charge at 500 amps and 1000 volts. What that comes down to is allowing you to pull up to a DC charging station, a semi public or a public charging station and plug that vehicle in and charge for three to five minutes and get a 100 kilometers worth of, or 95 miles worth of charge time.

And literally, in 10 or 12 minutes, even up to maybe five minutes, depending on the battery, you can get an 80 percent capacity charge and continue on with your traveling.

That’s unthinkable. You could stop and get a coffee and drink it and be completely charged.

Exactly. So we’re getting closer and closer to the fueling station, the petrol fueling station, where you run in, you grab a coffee or grab a paper or grab whatever and you come out and your vehicle is charged just as if you were standing there holding the pump. That’s a unique solution and we’re able to accomplish that by liquid cooling the cable and liquid cooling the connector and being able to run 500 amps and 1000 volts through a cable and connector that’s manageable because if you have something that’s 500 amps and 1000 volts without cooling it, the cable would be so big and so heavy that we wouldn’t be able to manage it.
So being able to, you know, whether you’re an elderly person or myself or a younger lady, to be able to pick that charging connector up and plug it in that vehicle to charge, really, you need to cool it and keep that charging station available 24/7.
So that’s something that we’re working on and it’s coming and we’re ready. And as those vehicles roll out in 2020 and 2021 and beyond with those higher capacity batteries that can handle that type of current, we’re ready and the infrastructure is starting. There are some of those charging stations exist in Europe and Electrify America here in the US is looking at installing some of those stations here in the US. It’s going to make it that charge anxiety and that range anxiety really disappear. We’re really excited about that type of a solution and we’re always in the forefront.

Phoenix Contact itself is a very innovative company not only on the E-Mobility side but on our other side of the business. So we’re always looking at these different technologies and how to improve.

It’s kind of an exciting time to be alive, isn’t it?

It absolutely is. And I can remember, you know, four or five years ago, maybe it wasn’t that long ago, but I heard people say there’s going to be a change in the automotive industry in the next 10 years that’s going to surpass what was done in the past 100 years. I think that 10 year window is down to probably three years. I mean, there’s going to be such a large change in the industry in the next few years that’s going to surpass what was done in the past 100 years in the automotive industry.
So, no doubt about it. With everything that’s going on, it is an exciting time to be alive and to be in the automotive industry and to be in Detroit and in Michigan with the revitalization of the city and the state and be part of all this and really take the lead on some of these type of technologies is really a good time.

Can we talk about infrastructure a little bit? Can you paint a picture of how you anticipate the charging landscape will change within the next five years or so? What will it look like to those of us on the roads?

Well, I think you’re going to see, on the highways, at public rest stops on the highways you’re going to see DC charging stations. You’re going to see some of the high powered charging stations that I’m talking about, 500 amps or you’re going to see some 125 amp charging stations which are a little bit slower on the DC side. You’re going to see gas stations that are going to be providing electricity instead of petrol in the future. You’re going to see more and more public and semi-public stations on the roads. You’re going to see more and more people that are going to have AC charging stations at their homes. We’re even looking at some opportunities for DC charging in private homes in the future.

So with what’s happened with Electrify America and so many of the other charging station manufacturers that are out there looking at different opportunities and the companies that we’ve had discussions with in the field, there’s going to be a complete change in the landscape of what you’re going to see in charging. And we really need it. I mean, that’s going to be help the adoption of electric vehicles and I’m glad to be part of that, I say renaissance in the industry.

Yeah. So what else do you want people to know about the work that you do, about anything that we’ve talked about or what we haven’t talked about?

Well, I think that, I just would like people to know that, the wave is coming. There’s less and less of the non-believers and it’s going to be an exciting time in the industry and we’re excited to be part of that industry. If people have an opportunity to go to the auto show and the AutoMobili-D in January and look at all the new technologies that are there, and especially visit the AutoMobili-D exhibits and see some of the technologies there in the automotive market and the expansion of automotives and the charging station manufacturers and the technology and autonomous vehicles, people are going to be blown away about what they see coming in the next years.

Yeah. Cool. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for talking with me today. I’ve really, really appreciated talking with you.

Well, thank you, Claire. I really appreciate your time and we look forward to talking soon.

In one capacity or another, an electric vehicle is in your short term future. Learn more about connected autonomous and electric vehicles and about how the Detroit region leads the world in next generation mobility at Driven, Find interesting articles, profiles, lots more podcasts and the latest news on mobility in the Detroit region and around the globe. Don’t forget to rate and review Mobility Moments on Apple Podcasts. I’m Claire Charlton. Thanks for joining me. See you again soon.

Photo courtesy of Vince Carioti.