Much faster electric-car charging: on a fast track


ChargePoint Express Plus modular DC fast-charging system for electric cars, launched at 2017 CES

ChargePoint Express Plus modular DC fast-charging system for electric cars, launched at 2017 CES

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Relatively short ranges and long charging times are two of the main factors restraining more widespread electric-car adoption.

To address the range issue, automakers are expected to launch a batch of more-affordable long-range electric cars over the next few years, a shift heralded by the 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV and the upcoming Tesla Model 3.

At the same time, automakers along with charging-infrastructure companies are planning higher-powered stations to allow for faster charging.

DON'T MISS: ChargePoint launches Express Plus modular fast-charging hardware

The move toward faster electric-car charging is gaining momentum at a similar pace to the push for longer-range electric cars, according to a recent Navigant Research blog post.

Navigant notes that 2017 will likely be the year in which charging equipment capable of surpassing 350 kilowatts becomes commercially available for the first time.

One such set of hardware is ChargePoint's Express Plus system, which was unveiled at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show last November.

ChargePoint Express Plus modular DC fast-charging system for electric cars, launched at 2017 CES

ChargePoint Express Plus modular DC fast-charging system for electric cars, launched at 2017 CES

Enlarge Photo

ChargePoint Express Plus is a modular system that can be upgraded as demand increases, and that can dynamically change charging rates at different charging stations as needed by different vehicles.

Express Plus installations have a maximum power rating of up to 400 kW, and the hardware can be arranged in different configurations depending on the needs of individual charging sites.

A "Power Cube" provides power to up to four charging stations, and that power can be dynamically split among charging stations depending on where a vehicle is in the charging process, or what models of vehicle are charging.

ALSO SEE: BMW, Ford, Mercedes, VW Group to build electric-car fast-charging network in Europe (Nov 2016)

Multiple Power Cubes can also be installed at a given site, allowing for more stations.

Individual stations can hold zero, one, or two charging modules, each one (2.5 feet by 1.5 feet by 5 inches) with an output rating of 31.25 kw.

ChargePoint expects the Express Plus system to become available in July of this year.

Audi e-tron Quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Audi e-tron Quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

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Among automakers, only Tesla has established anything near a comprehensive network of DC fast-charging stations, but other companies appear to be getting more serious about this infrastructure.

Last November, BMW, Daimler (parent of Mercedes-Benz and Smart), Audi, Porsche, and Ford announced plans for a European network of DC fast-charging stations.

The automakers' plan calls for 400 stations by 2020, capable of operating at up to 350 kw.

MORE: Porsche's 800-Volt fast charging for electric cars: why it matters (Oct 2016)

That would surpass the current Tesla Supercharger network's 135 kW, although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has discussed raising the power level to 350 kW in the future.

These stations will use the Combined Charging Standard preferred by the German automakers, as well as all U.S. automakers with the exception of Tesla.

Both Porsche and Audi previously discussed faster charging in respect to their upcoming long-range luxury electric cars—the Mission E sedan and e-tron SUV, respectively.

Porsche Mission E concept electric car

Porsche Mission E concept electric car

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Porsche discussed an 800-volt system in tandem with the launch of its Mission E concept car at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show, while Audi has indicated it will facilitate a network of DC fast-charging stations to support the e-tron when that model launches next year.

In addition to the Tesla Supercharger and Combined Charging Standards, a third DC fast-charging standard exists.

This is the CHAdeMO standard, currently used by the Nissan Leaf, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and Kia Soul EV in the U.S.

Last year, the CHAdeMO Association General Assembly said it would conduct studies into the commercial viability of a 350-kw system, but that a final decision would not be made until 2018.

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