25 years ago I went on my first professional road-trip for work. I was only 21, had not long passed my driving test and (to my amazement now), thought nothing of driving from the South of England to the South of Germany and Switzerland all alone.
I set off in an unleaded Toyota Corolla with a handful of physical maps on the spare seat, for what was a challenging journey. I can only marvel at how far we have come since then. My more recent trips to Europe have all been done in electric cars, and with an excellent charging infrastructure on the continent and satellite navigation with charging included, it is as simple as it can be. And in no small part that’s down to companies like the one featured in this insight piece.
On that trip, my southernmost appointment was with a multinational corporation that most people will have heard of, but might be less aware of what it is that they do, and that was ABB. Unsurprisingly for a business with a rich history in electrification, automation, motion and robotics, ABB is now one of the pre-eminent companies in the electric vehicle charging space worldwide. Its technologies are literally ‘the power behind’ providers like Fastned, GRIDSERVE and Ionity.
Recently, it was my pleasure to talk to the CEO of ABB E-Mobility, Frank Muehlon.
Dan Caesar: Hello Frank, I’d love to know more about ABB’s heritage in electric vehicle charging as what your business is doing is quite remarkable?
Frank Muehlon: ABB E-mobility is leading the way to a zero-emission mobility future with smart, reliable and emission-free electric vehicle charging solutions. As part of ABB‘s 2030 sustainability strategy, we are actively enabling a low-carbon society as well as working with our customers and suppliers to implement sustainable practices across our value chain and the lifecycle of our products and solutions. With ¼ of all global emissions currently coming from transport, e-mobility is a key part of that strategy. Over the last decade we have consistently invested in delivering e-mobility solutions for the transportation of tomorrow, bringing the digital and physical worlds together across market leading EV charging hardware, digital services and energy and fleet management solutions. Today, we are the world leader in EV charging solutions and trusted by the world’s biggest brands. With approximately 1,000 employees around the world, we have sold more than 680,000 electric vehicle chargers across more than 85 markets.
Dan Caesar: So what type of charging solutions does ABB offer?
Frank Muehlon: ABB E-mobility offers the widest portfolio of EV charging solutions on the market, from smart chargers for the home to high-power chargers for the highway stations of the future, solutions for the electrification of fleets and opportunity charging for electric buses and trucks. Over the last decade, we have launched a number of industry firsts including the first 50kW EU charger, the first high-power charging solution with liquid cooled cables and more recently the Terra 360, the world’s fastest all-in-one car charger, which is available in different configurations that can charge multiple vehicles simultaneously. and is capable of delivering 100km of range in less than three minutes. Our extensive experience in DC fast charging has led us to the development of a market leading destination charging portfolio with charging solutions for the home, workplace and retail and hospitality settings, where you have the opportunity to charge for several hours.
Dan Caesar: ABB technologies are often hard at work behind the scenes, but where might our audience see them?
Frank Muehlon: ABB charging technology is literally all around us. For example we supply AC and DC wallboxes for residential and commercial developments, nationwide high-power charging networks run by charging operators such as IONITY, Fastned, GRIDSERVE and EVgo and overhead chargers used to power city wide buses.The breadth of our charging portfolio really does mean that we have charging solutions for every application.In Italy for example, our technology can be found in the country’s tallest skyscraper, the Allianz Tower in Milan, where we are helping the development to lower it environmental impact. Meanwhile the SWECO offices in Belgium are the first in the country to install a smart vehicle to grid charging solution from ABB (bidirectional DC wallbox) for its fleet of 200+ electric vehicles. Over in Norway, more than 1,000 ABB high-power chargers have been installed nationwide to support the country’s ambitious emission reduction goals, while in the UK, our 350 kW high power chargers are being installed at 50 of the new Electric Charging Hubs from GRIDSERVE. In the Netherlands we are also working with one of the country’s largest public transport operators, Qbuzz, to supply more than 100 chargers to electrify part of its bus fleet. And most recently we announced that our charging technology will help Copenhagen airport to become Denmark’s largest EV charging site, supplying 1,350 chargers for use by both the airport’s own EVs and the EVs of the 80,000+ daily passengers.
Dan Caesar: How is ABB working to accelerate adoption of electric vehicles?
Frank Muehlon: ABB has been leading the development of the EV charging sector for over a decade and was integrally involved in the development of charging standards, critical to the widespread adoption of EVs.
We actively work in collaboration with a range of industry stakeholders, from vehicle manufacturers to charging point operators, local authorities and industry bodies. For example, we joined the Open Charge Alliance in 2020 to accelerate the shift towards electrified and sustainable mobility. The project brings together 32 of the most important e-mobility organizations in Europe, including ABB alongside companies such as Robert Bosch, BMW, Volvo, Fiat plus a number of leading European educational institutions. We are also committed to continual innovation in charging solutions, having invested more than $250 million in R&D from 2017 to 2021. We recently launched a new E-mobility Innovation Lab on the Delft University of Technology campus in the Netherlands, which houses 120 specialists working on next generation solutions and are currently developing a 16,000 square meter E-mobility facility in San Giovanni, Italy. The plant, which is set to open later this year, is designated as a Center of Excellence for the construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.
Dan Caesar: As this movement accelerates, what are your plans around home charging?
Frank Muehlon: Charging solutions for the home is a significant focus for ABB. We recognize that the most convenient place for EV drivers to charge is at home and have developed the market leading Terra AC wallbox which delivers high-value quality, futureproof flexibility, and advanced safety and protection for users. ABB has already sold more than 650,000 AC chargers around the world and we have recently announced our partnership with smart to provide AC wallboxes for home charging across all smart European markets to support the launch of the exciting new smart #1 model. Looking ahead, we are looking at bi-directional charging solutions for the home. An exciting area of development, solutions in this space have the potential to give EV drivers total energy independence and in some cases financial benefits, using the energy stored in their vehicle to power their own property or sell it back to the grid operator at peak times.
Dan Caesar: How do you see this decade playing out and what role do you expect ABB will have played?
Frank Muehlon: There are many ambitious emission reduction targets set for 2030 and as world leader in EV charging we are committed to helping nations around the world to reach these. For the continued growth of the e-mobility sector to continue at pace, there are some crucial steps which we must see and which we will continue to facilitate. These include continued investment in the development and deployment of widespread charging infrastructure, increased focus on standardization across the passenger EV sector, evolving our energy ecosystem with the integration of renewables and smart charging solutions like bi-directional charging and greater collaboration across all industry stakeholders to ensure we are developing future proof solutions which meet the needs of current and future vehicles, their drivers and the industry as a whole.
So as all of this electric vehicle related infrastructure springs up around us over the next few years, we would urge you to remember that it was pioneers like ABB that made the switch to EVs an easy one.
You can see ABB, amongst a host of other visitor attractions, at Fully Charged LIVE Europe and tickets to this May’s show are available here.
About Frank Muehlon
Frank Muehlon was appointed CEO of ABB’s newly formed E-mobility Division in February 2021. Prior to that he held the position of Managing Director of ABB’s E-mobility Infrastructure Solutions business since 2017.
ABB E-mobility offers the widest portfolio of EV charging solutions from smart chargers for the home to high-power chargers for the highway stations of the future, solutions for the electrification of fleets and opportunity charging for electric buses and trucks.
ABB’s market leading offering brings together the digital and physical worlds across market leading charging hardware, ABB AbilityTM enabled digital services and energy and fleet management solutions.