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BMW and Porsche develop ultra-fast charging systems

Wednesday, 9th January, 2019 5:01pm

New electric vehicle (EV) charging technology could chop charging times to under ten minutes.

A new experimental ultra-fast charger, installed on the A8 Autobahn in Germany, is able to charge the best new EV batteries at a rate of 100km in just three minutes.

The charger has been installed in Jettingen-Scheppach, located near the A8 motorway between Ulm and Augsburg, by the Fast Charge research consortium. This group, partially funded by a grant of €7.8 million from the German Federal Transport Ministry, counts BMW, Porsche, and Siemens among its collaborators, and the whole point is to develop technology that reduces the charging time needed for electric vehicles.

To do that, Fast Charge has taken the classic route of adding more power. A lot more power.

The best fast charging points in Ireland currently run at 50kW. This new point in Germany pumps 450kW, but does it through the current, familiar, Combined Charging System (CCS) plug.

The results are profound. Porsche hooked up a prototype of its Taycan electric car (due for launch in 2020) to the charger, and found that its 90kWh battery could take on sufficient charge for an extra 100km in just three minutes.

That’s because the Taycan uses a latest generation 400 volt battery charging system, which requires a special battery cooling setup so that the temperature of the cells can be kept even while the charge is being taken on.

The Taycan is expected to be the first 400 volt compatible passenger car when it goes on sale.

BMW tried charging an experimental version of its i3 electric car, with a 400 volt battery, on the same charger, and found that it could charge the battery from ten to 80 per cent capacity in just 15 minutes, around twice as fast as current charging technology.

The charger is currently available for public use, free of charge, as Fast Charge seeks to develop technology that will allow EV charging times similar to that needed to top up the tank of a petrol or diesel competitor.

If such systems can be developed, it could revive the idea of a ‘filling’ station for electric cars, one which would allow for ultra-rapid charging at large hubs, rather than installing smaller, lower-capacity chargers on a broader geographic basis.

Such a system has been suggested as being viable by the ESB, which envisages such charging stations using a local megawatt transformer to distribute power to multiple ultra-fast chargers in one location.

The investment needed for such a site is reckoned to be similar to that needed to build and equip a new, conventional, filling station.

Across the VW Group hall, Audi has announced it will invest in a new network of high-speed electric car charging points in Ireland.

A spokesperson for Audi Ireland, speaking about the new e-Tron electric SUV, said: “It is a hugely exciting time for Audi and our customers because we are not only unveiling a state-of-the-art battery electric vehicle model, but also the wider infrastructure to support it through our new joint venture. This will ensure the necessary infrastructure will be in place to support the future needs of customers across Ireland.”

That joint venture is an investment in a new network of fast chargers for Ireland, which comes under the Ionity group’s efforts.

Ionity is a joint venture between Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Ford, and the rest of the VW Group to invest in and build a pan-European network of ultra-fast charging stations to meet the battery demands of this new generation of long-legged electric cars.

The plan is for Ionity and Topaz Fuels to create five out of six strategic sites, each of which will have 30 charging points, and they’ll be sited on main inter-city routes.

A statement from Ionity said that “the majority of the charging stations are set to be available in advance of the market introduction of the Audi’s new e-Tron electric SUV” which is due to go on sale early next year. Audi customers will also get what’s called ‘premium access’ to a network of some 45,000 other fast charging points across Europe.

Audi plans to offer at least 20 electric and part-electric models by 2025, and from now on all of its new models will feature mild-hybrid assistance. The company also announced that it would look to make cost-savings by trimming unpopular engine and gearbox variants of some models, although it was not forthcoming on whether or not that means cuts to diesel-engined models.

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