Cross the ubiquity of ordering a pizza with the form factor (and weight) of a backup “jerry can” of fuel and you’re close to what it seems the startup SparkCharge is attempting to produce with its new modular charging system.
SparkCharge is a startup that won the top $1 million prize at the 43North pitch competition in 2018. It aimed to create something that provided ultra-fast charging to help fill the gaps left by the lack of charging infrastructure, in a product that was modular, reasonably lightweight, and easily transported.
That yet-unnamed product, so far called “Portable, Ultrafast, Modular Electric Vehicle Charging Unit,” is what SparkCharge delivered last week, as part of a demo day for its current base, which claims to be the largest cleantech startup incubator in the U.S.—Greentown Labs in Somerville, Massachusetts.
The charger module weighs an official 19.8 pounds while the battery module weighs 48.4 pounds. Both are approximately 24 by 13 by 9 inches, which makes them about the size of a large carry-on suitcase—so a size that should easily fit into the cargo compartment of just about any vehicle.
SparkCharge modular fast charging system
The system has a battery module that holds 3.5 kilowatt-hours (3.2 kwh usable) and can provide 20 kw of maximum continuous power. The charger module allows a maximum continuous 40 amps out, and a maximum 500 volts.
For energy storage, the units are packed with small cylindrical lithium-ion cells in the 18650 format—the “commodity” format used in the Tesla Model X and Model S, for instance—but the company asserted to Green Car Reports that “this is not the secret sauce that allows our charger to charge at a rate of 1 mile every 60 seconds.”
SparkCharge devised its solution to be modular—meaning you could stack as many of the battery modules as you wanted—and it says that the unit is one of the first chargers on the market that isn’t tied to a grid-connected station.
The company says that it is currently talking to “some of the most distinguished names in the automotive industry,” there could be multiple scenarios for using such a solution—as an on-demand “pizza delivery” solution ordered via phones or smart devices; as a tool for roadside assistance; or as a perk for a brand’s concierge service.
Rivian auxiliary battery
Although the SparkCharge units could feasibly be something that’s sold to customers eventually—or, perhaps, provided with a vehicle, not unlike the Rivian auxiliary-battery solution recently confirmed—SparkCharge is envisioning them as something that would be provided by roadside assistance or something you’d order via a smartphone app.
“SparkCharge is bridging the gap between electric vehicle owners and charging stations by changing the perception and way electric vehicle owners charge their vehicles,” said Joshua Aviv, CEO of SparkCharge. “We believe we can help the electric vehicle market grow at a faster rate.”
The company says that with its solution, it can charge EVs at a rate of 1 mile a minute. According to the company’s spec sheet, its DC fast charging hardware supports CHAdeMO protocols and will soon support CCS (Combo).
Although 3.2 kwh of energy isn’t a lot in the terms of today’s long-range EV battery packs—or even 6.4 kwh, if you were to stack a couple of battery modules—a solution like SparkCharge could indeed provide a “last few miles” solution to help fill the gaps and get a few more people to put aside their range concerns and get into electric cars.