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The Magazine
Real technological pioneers: Kostad started working with electric cars a decade ago


Charging ahead

In the village of Ebreichsdorf, south of Vienna, car drivers can recharge on the fresh country air and recharge their cars’ batteries at the same time. Here in the picturesque Austrian countryside, the technological pioneers at Kostad are working on innovative charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

It all started with their own car: About ten years ago, the first electric vehicle was parked in front of the land owned by the Köstenberger family, on which the home and offices of the family-owned business, Kostad Steuerungsbau GmbH, are located. Günter Köstenberger Jr. developed the first concepts of innovative charging technology back then, but it was only at the request of a business partner that implementation was finally started.

We want to develop the best charging station on the market!
Günter Köstenberger Jr., Managing Director, Kostad Steuerungsbau GmbH

Enthusiasts for electromobility

Since then, Ebreichsdorf has become something of a hotspot for electromobility. In partnership with Siemens, Kostad is working on the charging infrastructure of the future. Köstenberger Jr. is used to the curious glances from people walking by, and he is excited when they stop to admire the electric cars – "I like it when people ask me about our electric cars. Just a few years ago, electromobility was still a rather obscure topic. Today, more and more people are interested in these cars and the technology behind them. Electromobility will radically change the way in which we use cars."

The range that electric cars are capable of has grown in recent years, so that the popularity of these vehicles has now extended beyond urban areas. But electric cars will not become fully suitable for daily life until a sufficiently dense and efficient charging infrastructure is in place. “A lot of money will be invested in this area in the years to come. We have developed our stations so that drivers can charge their vehicles quickly, conveniently and safely – as well as in public spaces,” explains Köstenberger Jr.

Market maturity in just one and a half years

Kostad is pursuing a highly promising path, developing its innovative charging stations to market maturity in just one and a half years. Siemens Vienna has supported the project with products and the necessary know-how. The charging stations must meet the highest standards: not only rugged, reliable, and flexible, they must also be easy to integrate into the existing infrastructure. Because they are located in public spaces, however, they must also be protected from vandalism – by special surface coatings, for example. Another important aspect: Drivers identify themselves with personal information when charging their vehicles; this information is used in a central backend for invoicing the drivers. This means that the communication between station and control center must be protected accordingly.

The results speak for themselves: There doesn’t appear to be any other charging station currently on the market that can compare. Each station is individually designed to match the requirements of the user or operator. In addition to the AC charging stations, Kostad also supplies DC charging stations that work with direct current and can thus charge the vehicle batteries in significantly less time. With the latest Combined Charging System (CCS) for quick charging by direct current, a 20 kWh battery can be charged up to 80% in only 20 minutes; this translates into a range of 100 kilometers. Standards for even shorter charging times are currently in progress.

Industry components and know-how

The automation technology and power electronics of the station are based on robust, highly available components from the manufacturing industry, such as an innovative Open Controller. This enables Kostad to ensure his products have a service life of 10 years or more. During the charging process, the station continuously measures the battery voltage and optimizes the charging current and charging voltage of the DC-DC converter. The controller must be able to keep brief control times for an optimal charging process.

Drivers are not usually automation experts, which is why it must also be possible to operate the stations completely intuitively. That is why Kostad has developed a corresponding solution for the charging station in which all functions can be easily operated on a large and rugged touch screen – similar to a smartphone or tablet.

Innovation that inspires

Köstenberger Jr. wants to bring electromobility closer to people, and the charging stations developed by his company are a small but important building block in this endeavor: “It is important that electric cars not only feel good when you are driving them. Charging them must also be quick and easy – similar to a car with combustion engine. That is why our stations have an attractive design and good lighting.” 

Köstenberger Jr. and his team of pioneers not only have an eye for detail, but are already looking to the future and coming up with new ideas: “We want to be ready for new requirements such as the new charging standard that is currently being written. The automation and electronics technology used in our systems gives us enough reserves for years to come, but the technology will certainly continue to change. And we want to be right there when it happens!"

Picture credits: Siemens AG (charging station with touchscreen); Siemens AG/Stefan Koeppel, Koeppel Ulsamer GbR