Skip to main content

Mobile EV chargers and vans get ready for prime time

The world’s electric-car infrastructure is growing by leaps and bounds. But there are still gaps – places without chargers that could be served if EV charging was portable, flexible, and put on wheels. Colorado-based Lightning Systems today became the latest to introduce a mobile DC fast charger for electric vehicles. But are these solutions more than a gimmick?

The Lightning Mobile solution puts 192 kilowatt-hours of energy in a package that goes into a vehicle or trailer. The idea is to rescue fleet-based EVs with a fast roadside charge.

Tim Reeser, chief executive of Lightning Systems, explains:

Lightning Mobile is charged from a standard Level 2 AC charger at up to 18kW and can deliver DC Fast Charging at up to 80kW and, optionally, Level 2 AC charging at up to 19.2kW.

Lightning Systems designed the system to be installed in its Lightning Electric Transit 350HD cargo van, but the system can be installed in any vehicle or trailer that meets size and weight specifications.

Lightning Systems designs and manufactures zero-emission all-electric powertrains for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, including vans, delivery trucks, and buses.

In January, Navigant Research published a report on mobile EV chargers. The analyst firm said commercialization of these mobile solutions “is just starting to get underway.” However, Navigant pointed to a fleet of charging vans in China that has completed over 100,000 charging sessions in the past year.

Navigant forecasts that mobile charging will be “a small portion of the overall EV charger market forecast.” But it’s expected to grow from $16 billion in 2020 and more than $60 billion by 2030. This chart was provided by Navigant:

Scott Shephard, Navigant senior research analyst, told Electrek:

The primary goal is to provide charge point owners and fleet operators with some flexibility, to diminish the risks of stranding investments tied to large deployments of stationary chargers and avoid grid distribution upgrade costs and some install costs.

He said these solutions are more likely to work in China due to lower labor costs. The primary providers so far are Nio and BJEV. The vans operated by Nio store about 200 kWh for vehicle charging, and carry both AC and DC connections. That could be enough energy for about three sessions.

According to Shephard, mobile chargers only make up 0.5% of charging now and will be limited to about 2% by 2030.

Nonetheless, major auto companies are getting into the action. Volkswagen is running trial projects for mobile chargers using its MEB platform to provide a flexible supply of 360 kWh.

A Volkswagen spokesperson told Electrek:

Flexible charging stations can easily be built up anywhere and be connected to the grid. There’s also the flexibility to set them up off-grid. In that case, the charging station has to be removed for charging if the built-in battery pack is low. How the charging station is used, and the duration depends on the provider and the user’s demand.

The prototypes set up and tested in Wolfsburg have a footprint of roughly 1.4m x 1m and a height of 2.4m. The final dimensions may vary.

Our Joint Venture with DU-POWER is a milestone on the path to electric-mobility. The flexible, quick charging station has a big potential in the rapidly growing market for electric mobility like China. And we are also planning to start the production in Hanover, Germany.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Stay up to date with the latest content by subscribing to Electrek on Google News. You’re reading Electrek— experts who break news about Tesla, electric vehicles, and green energy, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow Electrek on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our YouTube channel for the latest reviews.



Avatar for Bradley Berman Bradley Berman

Bradley writes about electric cars, autonomous vehicles, smart homes, and other tech that’s transforming society. He contributes to The New York Times, SAE International, Via magazine, Popular Mechanics, MIT Technology Review, and others.