The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) unit has awarded a grant to Volta Inc. and Imagen Energy LLC, a developer of compact high-power electric vehicle (EV) chargers. The project seeks to develop and commercialize the next generation of domestically manufactured DC fast-charging (DCFC) technology in support of the federal government’s clean energy and climate priorities.
The grant is part of the ARPA-E Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential (SCALEUP) program, which provides further funding to previous ARPA-E teams that have been determined to be feasible for widespread deployment and commercialization domestically. SCALEUP selectees demonstrate a viable path to commercial deployment and the ability to attract private sector investments.
Through this project, Imagen and Volta seek to develop and commercialize chargers that are more flexible, more powerful, and more affordable. The project will utilize Imagen’s flexible, high-efficiency silicon carbide-based (SiC) power conversion platform to produce compact charging cabinets that enable affordable, easier-to-install, and highly reliable high-power fast chargers capable of charging multiple EVs simultaneously and being deployed in a market quickly. The flexible platform is expected to facilitate optional, convenient integration with energy storage and renewable energy, and supports vehicle-to-grid integration.
Equipment is being engineered to deliver at least 150kW and be manufactured in the United States to comply with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s (BIL) requirements. The technology will also fulfill network connectivity requirements, including Plug and Charge capabilities and communication through the Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP) and Open Charge Point Interface protocol (OCPI), building upon Volta’s existing software implementation to allow flexible integration with roaming charging partners.
Volta will leverage its patented PredictEV infrastructure planning software to identify optimal sites for effective piloting and initial deployment based on local EV ownership, mobility trends, demographics, and income levels. With more than 3,000 stalls currently installed, many within disadvantaged communities, and numerous existing relationships with leading retail and commercial properties, Volta’s EV charging network will enable quick feedback loops during the testing phase.
“Imagen relies on commercialization partners like Volta to accelerate the deployment of our high power density, silicon carbide-based power conversion platforms,” says Ezana Mekonnen, chief technology officer at Imagen. “The combination of Volta’s advanced PredictEV planning tool and the company’s existing charging network creates the ideal environment for quickly developing reliable, affordable, and efficient charging solutions that will support the rapid transition to electric mobility.”
“While this is a modest initial government grant that does not replace the need for the capital we are currently raising, it is proof of Volta’s ability to align our business with the federal government’s priorities,” comments Vince Cubbage, interim CEO at Volta. “Volta’s collaboration with Imagen on this winning ARPA-E application demonstrates our commitment to supporting solutions that are compliant with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, ensuring implementation can be done in a capital-efficient manner.”