Ford and Purdue University researchers have developed a new charging cable the automaker claims could allow future EVs to recharge in as little time as a gasoline fill-up.

The patent-pending design uses a new cooling method that harnesses the phase change of coolant from liquid to vapor, Ford said in a press release. Liquid-cooled charging cables aren't new, but this version can extract more heat, the automaker claims.

A focus on cooling is key to increasing charging speeds. Quicker charging requires more current to travel through a cable, which in turn generates more heat, which needs to be eliminated to keep components functioning, Michael Degner, senior technical leader, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said in a statement.

This charging cable won't be commercially available for some time, as more research is planned, Ford noted. Issam Mudawar, the Purdue professor whose lab is conducting the research, said in a statement that more testing will take place over the next two years to determine charge speeds for specific types of vehicles.

Ford and Purdue University charging research

Ford and Purdue University charging research

An alternative to new cooling technology is increasing the thickness of cables, which has been proposed for a new generation of cables needed to charge at 450 kw and higher. But those cables are increasingly bulky.

In some EVs, the air conditioning system for the vehicle already serves a purpose in helping keep the battery cool to enable faster charging. In 2020, automotive supplier Mahle unveiled a new air conditioning condenser designed with this purpose in mind. But on the charging-hardware side, cooling systems occupy significant space, use extra energy, and introduce additional maintenance needs.

Some of these phase-change cooling methods might be put to good use in the megawatt charging hardware that's expected to be deployed for commercial trucks over the next few years.

Fundamentally, charging at higher voltage allows higher-power charging without increasing the width of copper wire in the charge cable. That together with innovation like this might help keep the weight and bulk manageable in the future.