Megawatt charging system update31 August 2023

The automotive industry’s gallop towards ‘doing its bit’ to meet CO2 emissions targets by 2030 has seen the launch of a unique rapid charging system for battery-electric heavy commercials. Peter Shakespeare provides an update on the megawatt charging system

Battery-electric vehicles (BEV) are generally seen as the principal route to cutting transport emissions. This strategy is also being rapidly adopted by the commercial vehicle (CV) industry – the Traton Group (Scania, MAN, Navistar and Volkswagen Truck & Bus) companies in Europe have stated over 50% of global production will be BEVs by 2030. Other CV OEMs are following a similar path. This drive has created new challenges for the automotive sector and its customers. While not breaking news, the biggest challenge is the development and comprehensive roll-out of interoperable vehicle charging systems and supporting charging infrastructures for BEVs, to enable rapid charging of their batteries when they are operating out of range of their home base; in other words, a BEV version of a stop and fill forecourt.

To address this, cross-industry stakeholders have formed an association known as the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN). Its aim is to develop interoperable charging systems where vehicles, chargers and software systems work together to make the user experience as easy as filling up your tank. CharIN’s focus on the CV market is the development of the megawatt charging system (MCS). The goal for the MCS is to harmonise rapid CV charging with driving time and drivers’ rest time. As a commercial vehicle – within the EU - can be driven for a maximum of 4.5 hours before the driver needs to take a 45-minute break, within this break time the MCS needs to be able to deliver enough charge to the vehicle’s batteries so it can operate for at least another 4.5 hours. CharIN’s aim is for the MSC standard [specification] to be ready for roll out to the market by the end of 2024.

In May 2022, Scania, working with Swiss electric vehicle charging solutions provider ABB E Mobility, announced it had successfully installed and tested a pilot MCS on one of its heavy trucks. In July last year the MCS was officially launched at the EVS35 exhibition in Oslo, Norway.

At that time, a consortium of interested partners, including ABB, Siemens, Heliox, Scania, MAN, Daimler Trucks and Volvo, led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, began a pilot study in Germany – the HoLa project – to put megawatt charging for long-haul trucking in real world conditions, to gain more information about the European MCS network demand. A paper written in 2022 by the Fraunhofer Institute concluded: “Our results indicate a demand of approximately 700 to 1,500 charging locations, with up to 4,800 charging points in total within the next few years. Given the EU’s targets for the CO2 reduction of newly sold vehicles in 2030, technical issues should be clarified, path decisions should be made, and construction projects should be initiated.”


Scania GB’s transformation lead for electric charging, Louis Jones, explains that the CCS charging system, originally designed for passenger car and light commercials, still works, but the handshake between charger and vehicle and the connectivity was not tailored for heavy commercials.

He says: “The handshake between vehicle and charger is the key. The handshake is when the charger is plugged in to the vehicle and a software interface gains mutual recognition of compatibility and what charge and voltage is about to be put in. If this interface is not robust and reliable enough, there is the risk that either the vehicle or the charger won’t accept the handshake and charging will not take place. MCS has been developed to be sufficiently robust so it can unlock higher-powered rapid charging required by heavy BEVs, making them more viable operationally speaking.”

The MCS charger has a unique triangular plug as opposed to the round (AC) CCS and (DC) CCS2 charging systems currently in use. Jones continues: “People should understand that MCS is not a replacement charging system. Even when MCS is available you wouldn’t want to – and don’t need to – be using it to charge your vehicle all the time. CCS2 is fine for overnight charging and this can be installed in most locations using the existing power grid.

“Eventually MCS will be able to impart a 3.5MW charge, which requires a much more substantial grid, and this is probably not cost effective to install in most transport operating centres. So you will see new BEV trucks and buses fitted with CCS2 and MCS charging connections. MCS-fitted vehicles will require upgraded vehicle batteries, but this will probably be a staged approach. The first iteration of vehicles fitted with MCS will be able to accept a charge between 375kW and 1MW, and then there will be a build-up to vehicles that can take the higher charges.

“Battery development will run alongside the infrastructure roll-out between 2025 and 2030,” he adds. “The level of charge delivered by the MCS is managed by the vehicle’s battery management system and the charger’s management system, so even if the charger is capable of delivering 3.5MW, if the batteries can only accept 750kW, that is what the system will deliver.”


In terms of infrastructure roll-out, Jones says that the Traton Group, Volvo Group and Daimler are involved in the Milence joint venture to install 1,700 1MW charging locations across Europe by 2027. He explains the UK is included in that, and Milence is looking at potential main artery routes and locations across the UK which would be suitable for MCS charge points. [On its website Milence states that its initial focus will be on Netherlands, Germany, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Norway and Sweden.]

Secondly, Jones says the UK government is backing ZERFD (Zero Emission Road Freight Demonstration) which will fund zero-emission charging points for HGVs, whose timeline for deployment will be 2025 to 2030. Although planning is ongoing, he suggests a good assumption is that all the MCS charging infrastructure in the UK is likely to be focused along the main arterial routes. As soon as the MCS standard is available next year, Jones says Scania vehicles will be available with MCS, so these will enter the market in early 2025.

Meanwhile, charger manufacturer ABB E Mobility says it has embraced the MCS since its definition phase. Product management and development lead for transit and fleet Paolo Casini says that its initial demonstrator, derived from existing CCS technology, has been modified to conduct early testing with the new MCS, up to 1,000A. Its first commercially viable MCS charger, now in development, will be extended to provide an ecosystem for en-route and overnight charging of long-haul BEVs.

Repeated use of MCS will not degrade battery life, Casini affirms. He adds: “The increased charging power follows the increase of the battery capacity of the vehicles, leaving the stressed level of the battery, in terms of current, unchanged. The natural push by the market toward a continuous reduction of the time to recharge the vehicle and therefore toward high charging power will initially drive the deployment of batteries with higher Amp/hrs without changing the powertrain voltage rating of the vehicles, but eventually voltage will increase to allow charging at higher power without a proportional increase of the charging current. The MCS standard has been drafted to allow for this latter possibility.”

Not vehicle power but infrastructure development is currently the limiting factor in MCS, he says. “In Europe, we have seen that it can cost up to €2 million and take up to five years to install a sufficiently large grid connection. We have not got the time to move that slowly. This infrastructure needs to be in place between 2025 and 2030, despite the challenges we face in the global supply chain.”

Peter Shakespeare

Related Companies
Daimler AG
Volvo Group UK Ltd

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