EV charging firm to help develop the network and infrastructure for Uber Elevate programme
EV charging network operator ChargePoint has announced a partnership with Uber Elevate to support a global vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) transportation network.
The agreement will see ChargePoint develop the world’s first charging infrastructure for electric VTOL vehicles, as part of what the company calls “the logical next step in preparing for the all-electric future of transportation.”
VTOL aircraft have been gathering considerable momentum over the past two years, as the technology becomes more accepted. Meanwhile, start-ups and incumbents such as Uber are beginning to put more faith in the potential of electric powertrains, fuel cells and/or batteries to enable the change.
Their thinking is that urban centres become increasingly crowded (on the roads and in terms of building infrastructure), low-carbon, short-haul flights will become the norm. VTOL capabilities will allow these aircraft to take off from central locations without the need for a runway, and land close to or at their destinations. As a ride-hailing operator, Uber also sees the potential for “on-demand aviation” as a major disruptor to the industry, launching its Uber Elevate programme at an April 25 summit in Dallas, Texas.
“At ChargePoint, we are committed to getting everyone behind the wheel of an EV and keeping all types of EVs charged, no matter whether they roll, fly or float,” said ChargePoint president and CEO Pasquale Romano. “Pairing Uber’s VTOL transportation network with nearly a decade of experience and charging expertise will take both transportation and charging to the next level. We are confident that we will deliver a future-proof fast charging solution that will be a vital piece of this next generation mobility solution.”
The power demands of on-demand eVTOL present a number of challenges, the company notes. These vehicles must make frequent short trips, but will have limited time to charge while loading passengers. They will endure hundreds of charging cycles in their lifetime and require “massive amounts of power” for vertical takeoff and landing (although ElecTrans would add that this depends on the size of aircraft in question).
ChargePoint intend to use its intelligent ChargePoint Express Plus platform – announced earlier this year – as a base for this infrastructure. . The system features a modular design that the company hopes will support rapid growth and scalability across the network, and in EVs at least, supports up to 400kW charging. According to Uber’s specifications, the expected minimum charging power for eVTOL aircraft will be 300kW.
To ensure eVTOL vehicles can perform well for the long term, ChargePoint will also incorporate its own proprietary liquid cooling technology in the battery pack through charging cables. Such technology is gaining ground in the high-power charging market – Swiss manufacturer HUBER+SUHNER is also marketing its own Cooled Charging Cable design – and is likely to play a key role in helping the sector take off.