San Giovanni Valdarno, a country of less than 17,000 inhabitants and more than 700 years of history. A town in the province of Arezzo, like there are thousands in Italy. Except that ABB chose San Giovanni Valdarno ABB to build its E-mobility Center of Excellence, taking advantage of the industrial tradition of the Tuscan territory to make production work alongside Research & Development. Built in just two years, the plant in Valdarno it uses only renewable energy to build charging stations for electric vehicles. A pearl of the Green Economy, a cradle for the future of e-mobility: all in the green heart of Tuscany.
Usually to see the centers of advanced technology you have to take one (or more) planes, cross oceans and continents, overcome the insecurity of speaking another language. Instead we only had to take a Frecciarossa (and endure the heat) to reach the ABB plant in San Giovanni Valdarno.
A very recent structure, as the Plant Manager explains Stefano Chieregatowhich still recalls the internal ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone in July 2020. After two years, the center is operational for both production and Research & Development, with cfive hundred people working in the plant (including 70 engineers and researchers). Who had to endure the passage of us journalists as we reached the plenary room where the ribbon cutting ceremony took place.
Passing through the offices, a colleague comments on the design care with a “I saw these things in Mountain View from Google“. Although the tour of the factory then revealed to us how the technology in this factory always dialogues with the industrial skill and craftsmanship of the employees.
Chieregato explains to us that this combination of production and innovation is the real strength of this center, “which allows us to develop from the concept to the production of the charging stations. In fact, in the factory we have the part of research and development, engineering, testing for safety and quality “.
And during the tour of the factory we could see how closeness between workers and researchers is not just a “press conference metaphor”. Turning to the 16 thousand square meters of the plant (3.2 thousand for R&D), we have seen the production lines of the boards, which thanks to the automation for the smallest components and the precision of the workers for the larger ones has a great flexibility. But also the assembly area of the cabinets for the charging stations, at the end of which there are as many chambers to test the product safely.
But it is enough to walk through a door for one of the R&D engineers to welcome us and explain how the climatic chambers to test the chargers. By raising the temperature up to 100 degrees Celsius and lowering it below zero by as many, they can assess the condition of the charging stations and ensure their performance for 10 years. With tests that in a few months simulate several years of use, varying the temperature and other parameters.
The ABB E-Mobility Center of Excellence in San Govanni Valdarno also has one EMC chamber to evaluate electromagnetic emissions, isolating all external interference and refractions being tested. Something that for us (who are not engineers) has an almost sci-fi flavor, just a few steps from the cabinet production line. Where there is an area dedicated to the prototype testingwhere R&D and more experienced workers evaluate how industrialize the innovations that ABB develops. Also proving the insights of other centers around the world.
The last part of our tour was outside (and in the heat!), In an area with several charging stations mounted, even those for buses and heavy vehicles. Among these, an engineer showed us Terra 360, flagship of ABB production. In fact, it can recharge several cars at the same time, adjusting the power intelligently. And it manages to deliver up to 100 km in less than three minutes.
During the test he used electric cars to show us fast charging. But we were amazed when Francesco MennucciCEO of ABB E-Mobility SpA and Global ABB E-mobility Division Operations & Service Manage, explained to us in an interview that the cars used in the tests are the company cars of the employees. ABB, which has announced plans to electrify its entire car fleet, has asked employees to leave their electric company cars for testing. In order to find them charged at the end of the day, and also to lend a hand to colleagues from R&D. A truly 360-degree collaboration.
Mennucci explains that ABB E-mobility has more than 10 years of history, with the first 50 kW charger that was born in 2010. But today it has partnerships and collaborations with the main players in the electricity supply market. Last year the company has sold 680,000 charging stations in over 85 markets around the world. It has now invested $ 30 million in the new San Giovanni Valdarno plant, which will be able to produce over 10,000 DC charging stations.
But above all, research will play a fundamental role, side by side with production. The Valdarno will give “further impetus to our research and development activities, ensuring the consolidation of our reputation as a world leader in charging solutions for electric vehicles: thewe want to bring e-mobility solutions to a gift it’s a increasingly sustainable future “.
Antonio De Bellis E-Mobility lead, ABB Italy, then showed us how many solutions ABB develops for its partners. Many of which we saw being made during the factory tour. And he explains that the goal of the E-mobility revolution goes beyond “replacing petrol pumps”. In fact, the goal is to create a European ecosystem to make charging accessible and easy to use. Also for heavy vehicles. With intelligent features such as remote diagnostics, now used in 90% of ABB stations, which repair remotely in 65% of cases thanks to internet connectivity.
While the leaders and the institutions talked, they had next to them a Terra 360 charger, which we could then see in action. Attention to light sensors, screen feedback. Everything in that product summed up the effort to make electric charging easy and usable. The center of a green future.
A green future that we have already seen at work in the Tuscan factory. The importance of the Valdarno for innovation in E-mobility will therefore be essential. But also the ABB plant will be fundamental for the Arezzo area. As the President of Tuscany explained Eugenio Giani, “In the global excellence of the site in San Giovanni Valdarno there is a bet that speaks to the world: the innovation of the mobility market. Today we salute a new company that speaks to the future from the heart of our region, the Valdarno of Arezzo. We are proud to host a project that operates according to sustainability criteria and we are convinced that investments like this are also a recognition for our administrators – and first of all the mayor, Valentina Vadi – and for the fabric of businesses and services in the area “.
Mayor of San Giovanni Valdarno, Valentina Vadi he explains that “With the settlement of ABB, the Sant’Andrea area takes on complete appearance. This area, several years ago, had been identified as the production area of our Municipality but, due to a series of ups and downs, it had never been able to see its vocation fulfilled. Until today. The new ABB production facility will be a global center of excellence in the field of sustainable mobility e San Giovanni Valdarno will be characterized in the world by this clean, green, sustainable, high-tech production perfectly in line with the intentions of the municipal administration that I drive. The inauguration of the plant constitutes a historic moment for San Giovanni and opens a new season for our city and an opportunity for important economic, social and cultural growth “.
Building charging stations for passenger cars has a major impact on the environment. 27-29% of CO2 emissions come from traffic. But things are changing. By 2030, we expect 130 million EVs. And Europe has decided that from 2035 it will no longer be possible to sell cars that produce emissions. Added to this are the studies on “megaWatt Charging“. Mennucci explains to us that the goal of 3MW refills is no longer so far away.
ABB is investing to accelerate this development. Also with the possibility of having bidirectional chargers. That allow you to manage the network in an intelligent way. In addition to investing in the future for the electric aircraft (VTOL), small sports boats, virtual power plants and much more.
The ABB center in San Giovanni Valdarno will play a central role in this future. But already today it does it in a sustainable way. The solar panels satisfy autonomously il 30% of the site’s needs (720MWh)but all other resources also come explicitly from sources …
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