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BMW and Porsche Announce an EV Charger That Gives 100 Kilometers of Range in 3 Minutes

That lightning-bolt of a charger needs cooling for the cable and the battery

2 min read
'FastCharge' prototype charging station.
Photo: Porsche

A consortium including BMW and Porsche has unveiled a fast charger that can deliver enough juice to an electric car’s batteries in 3 minutes for it to travel 100 kilometers. The new charger can put the batteries’ state of charge above 80 percent in 15 minutes—half the time that Tesla’s vaunted supercharger needs.

The charger’s 450 kilowatts would fry anything but a specially modified car: Both the batteries and the charging cables themselves need to be cooled. That’s why the first station, which has just been opened to the public in the state of Bavaria, will have to pull its punches. It’ll feed just 50 kW to the BMW i3, for instance. The company’s iX3, due out in 2020, will take 150 kW.

The consortium, funded by the Bavarian government, also includes Allego GmbH, the operator; Phoenix Contact E-Mobility, which provided charging technology; and Siemens, which handled engineering.

EVs make up just a small fraction of all road vehicles, and offering ultra-fast-charging to the fraction of those EVs that can take it should be no big problem for utilities. But the grid might buckle under the strain of topping off a vast fleet of EVs, when we finally amass one.

Some people in the industry argue that we’d do better with a slow-charging system that makes up for its lack of speed with heightened convenience. Wireless charging, once it’s widely available in garages, could provide such an alternative, argues Witricity, which develops such systems. Today, Witricity and Honda said they were working on a project to allow EVs to trade electric power with the grid, making such vehicles a load-bearing asset to utilities rather than just another burden.

“Fast chargers? It’ll be like the gas lines of the 70s, queuing up for your spot,” Witricity’s CEO, Alex Gruzen, told IEEE Spectrum back in April.

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We Need More Than Just Electric Vehicles

To decarbonize road transport we need to complement EVs with bikes, rail, city planning, and alternative energy

11 min read
A worker works on the frame of a car on an assembly line.

China has more EVs than any other country—but it also gets most of its electricity from coal.

VCG/Getty Images
Green

EVs have finally come of age. The total cost of purchasing and driving one—the cost of ownership—has fallen nearly to parity with a typical gasoline-fueled car. Scientists and engineers have extended the range of EVs by cramming ever more energy into their batteries, and vehicle-charging networks have expanded in many countries. In the United States, for example, there are more than 49,000 public charging stations, and it is now possible to drive an EV from New York to California using public charging networks.

With all this, consumers and policymakers alike are hopeful that society will soon greatly reduce its carbon emissions by replacing today’s cars with electric vehicles. Indeed, adopting electric vehicles will go a long way in helping to improve environmental outcomes. But EVs come with important weaknesses, and so people shouldn’t count on them alone to do the job, even for the transportation sector.

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