PSU's Electric Avenue gets new fast charger from Kanematsu

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Thanks to a battery backup system, the Level 3 charger from Kanematsu USA (far left) provides a full charge for electric vehicles in about 25 minutes without putting extra pressure on the power grid.
Marc Voorhoeve

Thanks to a battery backup system, the Level 3 charger from Kanematsu USA (far left) provides a full charge for electric vehicles in about 25 minutes without putting extra pressure on the power grid.

Portland State University, Portland General Electric and the city of Portland on Wednesday will unveil the newest resident of its Electric Avenue research project: A fast charger with battery backup that has electric vehicle infrastructure planners whistling a happy tune.

The Level 3 charger, provided by distributor Kanematsu USA Inc., uses DC technology to charge electric cars in a fraction of the time — about 25 minutes — that it takes to get a full charge from more common Level 2 chargers.

The quicker charge makes Level 3 chargers the go-to technology for installations like the ones going on along the Interstate 5 corridor. But the proliferation of Level 3 chargers also makes people like Dale Garcia, electric vehicle project manager for Portland General Electric, a bit nervous.

"That's a lot of draw on the grid if you start installing these up and down the I-5 corridor," Garcia said. "There has to be capacity."

The beauty of the Kanematsu charger, Garcia explained, is its battery backup, the first system of its kind to be used in the United States.

The new charger juices vehicle batteries at a 50-kilowatt rate, but it draws more than half of that from its battery system, only drawing about 20 kilowatts from the grid in real time.

"That allows a lot more of these to be installed," Garcia said. "It's a big deal."

Marc Voorhoeve, sales and marketing manager for Kanematsu USA, said Portland is getting the first of the backed up chargers to be deployed in the U.S., though the technology is widely used in Japan. Kanematsu is providing the system — which costs about $90,000 — at no cost to support the research going on at PSU.

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