There's fast charging and then there's fast charging.
Automakers seem to be in a race to develop lithium-ion batteries for EVs that can charge faster than the half-hour currently required for electric cars, and a new Austrian startup founded by the great grandson of Ferdinand Porsche plans to lead that race.
Piëch's Mark Zero concept car that debuted at the Geneva auto show can charge up to 80 percent of its 300-mile battery in just four minutes and 40 seconds, the company says. An 80 percent charge represents 240 miles of range. For all practical intents and purposes, that's about as fast as a gas car.
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The secret, Piëch says, is new proprietary battery technology from Chinese suppliers Desten Group and Qingdau Tgood Electric Co.
Piëch says a new type of cells from Desten produce very little heat when charging and discharging—so little that they don't require any liquid cooling system as most EV battery packs do. Desten produces batteries for consumer electronics and plans to roll the same technology out to electric cars.
The company says not needing a separate cooling system saves about 440 pounds and allows the all-electric Mark Zero to undercut the weight of some internal combustion coupes on the market. The sporty two-seat GT coupe, reminiscent of a Jaguar E-Type, weighs less than 4,000 pounds.
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Recharging 240 miles in less than 5 minutes would require charging rates in excess of 900 kilowatts. The fastest chargers today can operate up to 350-kw, but there are very few of them, and so far no cars that can accommodate charging that fast.
Piëch didn't specify where owners would find a power source capable of providing that kind of power or what type of charge plug could accommodate it, but Qingdau Tgood operates electric utilities and power systems for trains in 300 cities around the world as well as 210,000 EV charging stations, and will become the charging provider for Piëch's electric cars.
The Mark Zero makes 603 horsepower from three electric motors—two 201-hp units on the rear axle, and one on the front.
Piëch and the Mark Zero are not just about electric cars, however. The Mark Zero is designed to accommodate batteries, internal combustion, or even hydrogen power.
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The Swiss company was founded by entrepreneur Rea Stark Rajcic, along with Anton Piëch, the son of former Audi and Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piëch, who was himself a grandson of automotive engineering pioneer Ferdinand Porsche, and nephew of the Ferdinand Porsche who founded the sports-car company.
It plans to follow the Mark Zero with a four-seat model and an SUV.