Swiss company ABB has launched its Terra High Power DC fast charger, which can put out an impressive 350 kilowatts, charging at nearly three times the rate of Tesla’s Superchargers. It’ll enable super fast car charging – but only once cars are ready to handle it.
The fast charger could shift electrons in the battery so fast that an average electric car would be able to gain 120 miles (200 km) of range in just 8 minutes. In order for electric cars to be fully accepted as long-range touring vehicles, they’ll need these kinds of crazy charge rates and more, considering that fossil fuel-powered cars can be filled up in a matter of a few minutes. Mind you, when you’re not doing long distances, EVs can be charged slowly at home for a tiny fraction of what a tank of fuel would cost you.
Current charging infrastructure is far slower. A CHAdeMO can deliver up to 62.5 kW, the J1772 level 2 spec allows up to 19.2 kW charging, and the current Tesla Supercharger will pump power into a Model S at 120 kW. So the leap to 350 kW is a pretty huge jump.
Unfortunately, there’s currently nothing on the market that can handle that kind of power, with many cars limited to 50 kW charging to preserve battery life. The 2018 Nissan Leaf can take a maximum of 100 kW, and while Tesla’s Model 3 is rumored to be capable of charging at somewhere between 184 and 210 kW, it’s currently limited to around 100.
Mind you, Elon Musk doesn’t seem to be impressed by a 350-kW charger. When questioned in 2016 on whether Tesla’s Supercharger V3 would pack that kind of power, he tweeted “A mere 350 kW … what are you referring to, a children’s toy?”
Recharging a battery at hyper-quick rates is no joke from a technical point of view. As “Electric” Terry Hershner explains concisely in our recent interview, “Filling up a lithium battery is a lot like filling an empty milk jug with a pressure washer. If it’s completely empty, you can squeeze that trigger and just blast it in there. But almost right away, you’ve gotta start backing off the pressure or the water will start foaming out – and that’s where you can get actual physical damage to the battery.”
The ability to accept ultra-fast charging is just another criterion on the list for battery developers to satisfy, alongside energy density, thermal stability, charge cycle life and many others. Indeed, charging batteries this fast can be just as deleterious to battery life as massive power output rates.
So, ABB’s Terra High Power fast charge units will only get to approach their full charging capability when multiple cars are plugged in at once – for the moment.