Electric car makers are teaming up with European fast charge network Ionity to try and ensure that electric car charging times are as quick as a coffee break.
The Ionity network, which among others uses 350kW DC fast chargers provided by Australia’s Tritium, is capable of charging cars in the time in double quick time, but not all EVs are capable of taking such a rapid charge.
As noted by Tritium’s James Kennedy in this opinion piece for The Driven, the ability for EVs to fully utilise 350kW chargers will allow a recharging experience similar as speedy as that of refuelling an internal combustion engine vehicle.
To help car makers such as Daimler, BMW, Volkswagen and Ford achieve high-speed charging, Ionity has been testing a Mercedes-Benz EQC – which is rated for a maximum 110kW charge rate – to better understand high-powered charging and the driving habits of those driving long distances.
While the experiment is being undertaken in Europe, it has relevance for Australia. Although the average daily commute of an Australian is around 40km, mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles may well depend on how the charging needs for long distance trips are viewed.
“Our aim is to get to a point where, over a long distance, the charging times coincide with the natural pattern of the driver’s breaks”, Dr. Susanne Koblitz, the physicist responsible for Ionity’s charging technology unit, was quoted as saying in a blog post on Daimler’s website.
“And from a technical point of view, it’s incredibly exciting”, says Koblitz.
According to Ionity, surveys show that drivers will stop for a short 15-20 minute break at least every three to four hours when on a long distance trip.
Each of those drives will require a battery to top up 80-100 kilowatts of energy, a figure that a 350kW charger can easily replenish in fifteen or so minutes.
(Editor’s note: I should point out here that in Australia, safety officials say driving time is recommended to be no longer than two hours, and with my experience that after two hours driving, 20 minutes is plenty of time to top up a Model 3).
No electric vehicle currently on the market can currently max out top-end chargers. While the Porsche Taycan is said to be capable of 350kW charging, it is currently software limited to a maximum 270kW charge rate.
But within five years’ time, it is expected that electric vehicles that can utilise the full capacity of 350kW will begin to appear on the market.
Koblitz says the fundamental challenge that DC fast charging has it that it must generate the correct voltage that battery can take on board.
“However, this changes constantly according to the charge level of the battery,” she notes, likening the slowing down of a battery charging as it approaches 100% capacity to a stadium filling up more slowly as it fills and people take longer to find scarce seats.
“This involves a constant process of communication between the vehicle and the charging station. Here at Ionity we have made significant progress in this respect over the last couple of years”, Koblitz says.
She says it will be interesting to see the progress made in the next few decades.
“As a driver myself I do of course wonder what will be coming our way in the next ten, twenty years”, reflects Koblitz.
“When I say this, I’m not thinking so much about the drivetrain or the battery – the manufacturers are already working wonders in that respect.
“Much more exciting is the question as to what requirements the automobile of the future will need to meet. And how these requirements can be satisfied, over the long term. I’d like to think we could also become a little more visionary about things like this, here in Germany.”
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.