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ECOtality Teams with Carlton-Bates to Trim Cost, Size of Blink® DC Fast Charge Systems

CBC, Wesco Provide Design, Assembly and Logistics Support for $230 Million EV Project

$230 Million Electric Vehicle Project
With increasing demand for more fuel-efficient vehicles, the auto industry has rapidly responded with half a dozen all-electric models. While the infrastructure to power those electric vehicles is still coming along, San Francisco-based ECOtality is helping lead the charge with its Blink DC Fast Charge Systems, a type of electric vehicle charging station, now installed at partner locations such as IKEA, Best Buy and Cracker Barrel stores.

ECOtality has been on the forefront of electric power innovation since 1989, and has become a recognized leader in transportation and storage technologies for facilities such as airports. In 2010, ECOtality won $230 million in public/private grants to develop an e-fueling infrastructure for the Electric Vehicle (EV) Project. The ambitious project set out to deploy its electric vehicle charging infrastructure in 16 cities and major metropolitan areas in six states, for a total of approximately 15,000 L2 charging stations and 220 L3 Fast Charging stations.

For the EV Project, ECOtality was to design and manufacture the fast-charge systems. The units had to be more compact than those the company had previously developed for airport applications. Second, ECOtality needed the production capacity for electric vehicle charging station components to meet the demand, although manufacturing is not its core competency.

Blink DC Fast Charge System
When the grant came through, ECOtality sat down with its current supply chain services and electronics products parts supplier Carlton-Bates. A cross-functional team from the CBC Assembled Solutions group consulted with ECOtality about the needs for the Electric Vehicle Project. CBC could provide a turn-key assembled solution by producing the fast-charge units at its Austin, Texas manufacturing facility.

But beyond electronic component production, the company’s engineers – teaming with key suppliers – brought ideas for improving the overall design of the Level 3 chargers. Level 3 chargers are permanently wired supply equipment used especially for rapid electrical vehicle charging.

Ecotality Blink DC Fast Charging Station for Powering Electric Vehicles

"Getting Carlton-Bates involved early in the design process was key to our success,” said Garrett Beauregard, senior VP of engineering at ECOtality. “They brought valuable supply chain knowledge, design expertise and an eye toward components that were available and easy to assemble at a reasonable cost."

CBC engineers worked side-by-side with the ECOtality team and a WESCO and CBC supplier, Hoffman, to redesign the Level 3 chargers, which includes a grid power unit and charge dispensing unit. The resulting prototype for the grid power unit is smaller and less costly than the initial proposed design, and incorporated a new airflow system that considerably reduces heat generation – for a safer, more efficient electric vehicle charging station component.

"CBC’s engineering support to productionize the design for the Level 3 charger was invaluable and extraordinarily helpful,” Beauregard said."

The Blink DC Fast Charger provides a quick and safe way to charge electric vehicles, allowing drivers to achieve a full charge in less than 30 minutes.

CBC leverages its extensive relationships with suppliers to source all the parts needed for the Blink and assembles the entire unit at its Austin facility. ECOtality gets high-quality production without having to invest the space or manpower in its own facilities, or to coordinate the numerous purchase orders for the electric vehicle charging station components.

Nationwide Logistics Support
When the need arose for logistics support on the Level 2 chargers, ECOtality again turned to CBC. With support from CBC parent WESCO, CBC managed procurement, housing and delivery of the Level 2 chargers.

CBC leveraged WESCO contractor relationships and branches located in every electronic vehicle project market. A logistics manager at CBC served as the single point of contact to manage orders, oversee the web-based system for tracking units and coordinate pickup by contractors on the ground in each city.

Reducing per Unit Cost by $10,000
With the EV Project contract, ECOtality grew the size of its company by more than six times. The partnership with CBC helped the company capitalize on CBC’s supply chain services for electronic products which allowed them to move to the next level and successfully meet the demands of the massive project.

The re-design cut the size of the unit by 25 percent and reduced the manufacturing cost of the Blink DC Fast Charge System by $10,000 – for a total savings of $2 million across the 220 units. For the Level 2 logistics support, ECOtality saves an estimated $100,000 annually.

"People talk partnership all the time, and CBC walked that road," said Barry Sullivan, VP of operations. "CBC truly showed a get it done mentality and a commitment to a long-term outlook."

Carlton-Bates Company is a trusted distributor of Electronic and electric vehicle charging station components with an extensive range of electronic products.