If the standards-based charging networks, and the automakers other than Tesla Motors, are to have a chance, standards-based high-power charging stations like what ABB just unveiled must exist. The Tesla Supercharger network is ingenious only in the forethought exhibited by Tesla Motors to invest in a widespread high power DC fast charging network. While it is a cool service, the Supercharger network is limited to Tesla’s cars. That makes it easier for Tesla to sell their cars, and harder for the other manufacturers to do so, simply because of the attractiveness of using the Supercharger network for long distance travel. If you flip that around, the other charging networks and other automakers need something like the Supercharger network.
The other day, ABB announced a new high power DC fast charging station rated at 150 kiloWatts. It is a dual-protocol station, meaning it supports the two standards-based DC fast charging systems: CHAdeMO and CCS. It can be configured to support a full 150 kiloWatt charge rate into one car, or to support 150 kiloWatts into two cars for 300 kiloWatts total. It also supports both 400 volt and 800 volt electric cars.
An installed system can be expanded after installation by adding more power cabinets and charging posts. To aid power delivery, the charging cables are individually cooled (presumably that means a liquid cooling system in the cables).
The Tesla Supercharger system has some similar functionality. It can intelligently share power across a Supercharger site, and Tesla Motors has discussed liquid cooling in the charging cables. The power level is similar, though the ABB Terra HP may support a higher maximum charge rate than what Tesla currently supports.
Arguably wide adoption of electric cars requires an ubiquitous fast charging network. The faster the charging the higher the effective trip speed, with the Tesla Supercharger supporting a 55 miles/hr (or so) effective trip speed. Such a figure is calculated by adding up the total trip time, including driving time and charging time, to calculate the time required to travel a given distance. The key is a fast recharge time, to minimize the time required for charging, and to keep the effective trip speed as high as possible.
At 150 kiloWatts, the ABB Terra HP will bring equivalence between cars with standards-based fast charging and the Tesla Supercharger network. Well, if (when) the other automakers begin selling electric cars supporting that higher charge rate.
- Last year the forces behind CCS began discussing implementation of such a charging rate. Tesla joined that alliance, raising various questions which Tesla isn’t about to discuss publicly.
- On the CHAdeMO side of the world, plans are afoot to support 150 kiloWatts. Kia has tested a Kia Soul EV at 100+ kiloWatts.
Oh, wait, both the CCS and CHAdeMO forces are working on higher charging rates. They, of course, see the requirements just outlined, and are working in the direction of higher power fast charging. Of course the ABB Terra HP has to have come about because of those efforts to define higher power CCS and CHAdeMO charging.
Just because the charging station supports 150 kiloWatts doesn’t magically make the car charge at 150 kiloWatts. Each car informs the charging station what charging rate it can support. The manufacturer has to limit the charging rate to what the components will allow. The higher charging rate requires beefier charging cables, beefier connectors, and so on.
The incumbent electric cars were designed to match the 50 kiloWatt rate supported by the incumbent DC fast charging stations. It’s extremely unlikely those cars will support a much higher charging rate than 50 kiloWatts. But it’s extremely likely that as 200+ mile range electric cars become available the maximum charging rate will increase.
A few years ago I attended the opening of the Supercharger facility at the Tesla factory. As that was back when I still worked as an EV Journalist, I was able to interview JB Straubel who presided over the ceremony. I asked him about the standards struggle in the fast charging world. He responded with an interesting observation — that from their standpoint, 50 kiloWatts is slow charging.
Consider that on a 100 kiloWatt-hour car, a 50 kiloWatt charging rate requires about 2 hours for a full recharge. Can you call it fast charging if it takes that long?
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