DC fast charging for electric cars: what's here, what's coming, what's hype?


Prototype EVgo 350-kw fast-charging station Fremont, CA

Prototype EVgo 350-kw fast-charging station Fremont, CA

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Drivers who want to use their electric cars for trips beyond a radius from their home charging site rely on DC fast-charging sites.

Now Charged magazine has written a comprehensive guide to the current state and future of DC charging.

Today, most publicly available chargers using the CHAdeMO and CCS standards have an output of 50 kilowatts or less; Tesla's Superchargers run at up to 135 kw.

CHECK OUT: How To Wire A New Garage For Electric-Car Charging: What You Need To Know

That's due, in part, to the fact that until December, no other electric vehicles on sale could handle a faster DC charging rate.

It won't be that way forever.

The Hyundai Ioniq Electric can accept charge rates of up to 100 kw, and the Chevrolet Bolt EV can charge at up to 80 kw over a portion of its capacity.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

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At that rate, Hyundai's electric car can restore 80 percent of its total battery capacity in 23 minutes, offering drivers an additional 99 miles of range.

California buyers will be able to purchase the new Hyundai in April, and companies like EVGo and ABB are already working to build chargers that can accommodate the faster charge rate.

The two recently launched an experimental 150-kw charge station in Fremont, California, to let automakers test plug-in electric vehicles that can handle rates higher than 50 kw.

MORE: Electric car charging: the basics you need to know (updated)

Charged says that station will also serve as a model for building code officials.

EVGo says the new charger, constructed by ABB, can be modified to yield a charge rate of up to 350 kw. 

That's impressive, although well beyond what the electric cars on the market can utilize at the moment.

2015 Nissan Leaf at ChargePoint fast charger at DeCormier Nissan, Manchester, CT [photo John Briggs]

2015 Nissan Leaf at ChargePoint fast charger at DeCormier Nissan, Manchester, CT [photo John Briggs]

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While some automakers have promised vehicles that use the kind of high-voltage battery packs that would benefit from such a powerful charger, those remain in the future.

The most prominent company that has proposed such rates is Porsche, whose expensive luxury vehicles could arguably include much more expensive onboard battery charging gear.

For the mass market, Charged says, we're likely to see more incremental steps in higher fast-charging rates.

DON'T MISS: More details on fast-charging rate in 2017 Chevy Bolt EV electric car

That's where the CCSPlus standard comes in: it allows manufacturers to build on the established CCS charging standard and work their way up to more powerful batteries and faster charging stations.

The standard includes some changes from fast chargers now available, including a cooled charging cable and a cooling unit in the station itself with its own separate control system.

That system will eventually be able to handle up to 400 kw, although right now, manufacturers are planning on systems from 150 kw to 200 kw as they wait for the cars on the market to catch up.

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