With powerful, super-fast chargers popping up in various places - are we about to make recharging more like traditional refueling?
Whether plugging-in overnight or topping-up at a public station, the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle (EV) is putting people off buying one – could that be about to change?
A full recharge at home can take hours and the vast majority of public charging stations deliver 50 kW or less – this is good for a quick charge to add a short bit of range, but if you need to go further, you’ll need to wait longer.
A recent survey in the UK found more than two thirds of people were put off buying electric car by the time it takes to charge a vehicle – and it’s a similar story in other countries, with charging times doing little to ease the range anxiety of potential EV owners. Could a substantial range boost delivered quickly change all this?
In the UK, 150kW charge points delivering 100-mile range in 10-15 minutes are expected soon. A scheme in Australia has introduced 350kW chargers between Melbourne and Sydney, delivering 250 miles of range in 15 minutes or 125 miles in eight. And in Ireland, 51 hubs charging up to eight vehicles simultaneously - and providing a 60 miles of range in just six minutes - are being installed on major roads.
With super-fast charging schemes also popping up other counties (including the US and China), could these powerful, new stations move us ever closer to achieving a full charge in just five minutes? Are we about to ease concerns around charge times and make recharging more like traditional refueling?
If only things were that simple…
“There are a few barriers to faster charging,” says Andrei Iordache, Global Automotive Solutions Manager with HERE Technologies. “There’s the capacity of charging stations to provide energy quickly, the ability of networks to deliver a high-power supply to stations, and also EVs themselves and the on-board charging technology with which they’re fitted.
“Vehicle design is important. Not all EVs have the high-voltage architecture needed to take advantage of super-fast stations. And, of course, we have to consider the batteries.”
Quicker charging often means accepting less range; but with batteries improving all the time this might not be an issue for long.
The automotive industry is moving towards solid state batteries as a replacement for the lithium-ion batteries used today. The hope is that solid batteries will be cheaper, lighter, more fire-resistant, longer lasting and, crucially, offer the potential for quicker charging.
There’s even an Israeli startup - called StoreDot –claiming in 2022 it will start producing a new type of battery consisting of ‘proprietary organic compounds’ that can be fully-charged in just five minutes to provide a range of 300 miles.
“The best combination for optimum range is fast-charging, say 350KW, coupled with a high-density battery that doesn’t weigh too much,” says Andrei.
“You can make a super-big charging station, but how do you minimize the EV energy loss? Battery technology is important. If you can make a light battery with good capacity, that can accept a high charging power, you’ll get extra range. Much of it is about getting right the weight to capacity ratio for the battery.”
With charging potential so interwoven with car and battery design, does that mean a super-big public station delivering a five-minute charge is really necessary?
“Five minutes would be great, but it’s not necessary,” adds Andrei. “A good 15-minute charge will eventually meet all the customer’s needs.
“If you can reserve a station on route, drive straight in and pay with a card swipe or from the vehicle itself, that cuts queuing. So, we’re already on a similar timeframe to a refueling stop if you’re queuing to refuel and pay. If the charger then delivers a 200-mile range, that fits naturally with the breaks needed on a longer journey.
“In reality, no-one is going to need a five-minute charge.”
Maps from HERE enable drivers to find the right charging points, fast. Wherever they’re headed, HERE can pinpoint the charging stations along their journey and recommend those with the correct type of connector for their vehicle.