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Argonne National Laboratory

Smartgrid EV Communication module (SpEC) SAE DC Charging Digital Communication Controller (ANL-PB-13-068; ANL-SF-13-030)

SAE DC communication controller enables adding 60–80 miles of range to an electric vehicle in less than 20 minutes

The Invention:

DC Fast Charging

One of the major drawbacks of electric vehicles (EVs) is the long period of time required to recharge EV batteries. While regular alternating current (AC) charging systems are sufficient for overnight charging of these vehicles at home or at the office, they aren’t practical for quick recharging in public areas. A rapid means for recharging is needed in order to make EVs a practical alternative to traditional internal combustion engine-powered vehicles.

In response to this need, Argonne National Laboratory has developed a direct current (DC) Charging Digital Communication Controller, or SpEC” (Smartgrid EV Communication) module. DC fast charging enables rapid recharging of electric vehicles along heavy traffic corridors and at public stations. A DC fast charge can add 60 to 80 miles of range to an EV in less than 20 minutes. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines the specifications and requirements for off-board DC charging of EVs; Argonne National Laboratory’s SpEC module conforms to these SAE standards.

Market Opportunity

Research indicates the charging station market will grow in unit sales from around 120,000 units in 2012 to 1.3 million in 2020 — a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 35%. This represents a growth from $140 million in 2012 to an expected $1.15 billion in 2020. Argonne National Laboratory’s SpEC module represents a major step toward broad scale adoption of electric vehicles. In addition, Argonne National Laboratory’s technology could potentially be used to accomplish smart grid communication instead of DC fast charging communication, as well as wireless charging communication. The SpEC controller could also be used as PEV or EV supply equipment (EVSE or charge station) emulator to aid in testing and protocol development.


Conforms to SAE Standards:

  • J1772: PEV/EVSE Interface and Performance Specs
  • J2931/4: HPGP PHY and Data-link Layer Specs
  • J2931/1: Communication Controller Protocol Stack
  • J2847/2: DC Application Layer Messages and Requirements


Interoperability is the capability of a system component to work with other products or systems without any restricted access or implementation. For EVs and EVSEs, interoperability means meeting standards for connectivity and communication to ensure that all plug-in vehicles can charge using any EVSE and that the vehicle and/or EVSE can communicate to the utility or grid operator to enable billing or more sophisticated interactions, such as two-way communication and load management.

Global standardization would allow seamless operation of vehicles and EVSEs across borders and service areas of different utilities. Specifically, this means ensuring that messages and protocols are compatible between the utilities/grid operators, home or workplace communication networks, EVSEs and electric/plug-in hybrid vehicles. Standards for fast charging remain under debate, with Volkswagen, BMW, Daimler, Ford, and General Motors all supporting SAE’s combined charging standard, which includes the capability for both AC charging as well as fast DC charging.


  • Enables standards based interoperable SAE Combined Charging System (CCS) DC charging
  • Provides faster recharge rates
  • Can add 60- 80 miles of range in <20 minutes
  • Makes electric vehicles more convenient and reliable
  • Can be used to achieve smart grid communication
  • Can be used as a PEV or EVSE emulator to aid in testing and protocol development

Developmental Stage:

Argonne’s SpEC module has been reduced to practice, qualified through numerous tests and demonstrations, and is in the product integration phase for a number of specific applications.


Argonne is seeking commercialization partners for exclusive and nonexclusive licensing in defined fields-of-use.

Argonne Invention Numbers:

ANL-PB-13-068 and ANL-SF-13-030


Jason Harper


Argonne’s Technology Development and Commercialization division (partners@​anl.​gov)