Electric vehicle charging is a heck of a lot better than it used to be, but it’s still a long way off being as convenient as filling up a tank of gas. Fortunately, there’s a lot of work being done to make that happen, including this brand new charging cable from Ford.
Developed in conjunction with Purdue University, this charging cable can, in theory, recharge an EV’s battery in around five minutes. Not quite gas-tank filling speeds, but it’s incredibly close.
Right now even the best electric cars take around 30 minutes to recharge. And that only gets you to around 80% charge, since batteries charge a lot more slowly as they start to reach 100%.
One of the biggest challenges involved with rapid charging is the heat. The more current you have supplying power to a battery, the more heat is produced. That’s true of all batteries, whether they’re the larger EV batteries or smaller ones you’ll find in your phone.
Heat also happens to be detrimental to long-term battery health, speeding up degradation and lowering how much power they can store. Which is annoying when it happens to your phone, but a major problem on a car that costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Modern EVs do have cooling systems to counter this, but they only work up to a certain point, which limits charging speeds across the board. But the Ford/Purdue cable has its own cooling system, which can remove a lot of excess heat before it reaches the battery, thereby reducing the strain on the battery itself and the car’s own thermal management systems.
Ford claims that the cable can remove more heat than conventional cooling systems, since the liquid coolant actually turns to vapor and speeds the process along.
Unfortunately, we’re not likely to see this technology implemented anytime soon. For starters there aren’t any EV batteries that can handle the high voltage needed to recharge at such high speeds. You would need an incredible amount of current to cut recharge times from 30 minutes to just five — though Ford hasn’t specified how much current this cable could handle.
That’s not to say this news isn’t a big deal. The process of speeding up charging involves solving multiple problems, and removing a chunk of the heat from the equation solves one of the major problems of rapid charging.
Let’s just hope this vapor-capable cooling system doesn’t end up as the wrong kind of vaporware. Because we could all do with a future where people don’t need to ask how long it takes to charge an electric car, because it happens so quickly nobody has to worry about it.