Electric vehicles can now be charged faster than an iPhone—reducing what previously took four hours down to less than one hour.
This new fast-charging technology was developed by ABB, an energy engineering company, at N.C. State.
Ewan Pritchard, a professor from the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at N.C. State, demonstrated how the fast charger worked on a Nissan Leaf.
“When the charger was originally installed last year, it was the first one on the east coast,” Pritchard said. “What this does is it puts direct current straight into the batteries at 500 volts. So, by doing a very high current and high voltage, it allows the electrons to get in very quickly.”
The more conventional chargers are known as Type-2 chargers—these take about four hours to charge a vehicle.
In a Type-2 charger, the fast-charging station converts alternating current to direct current before the current reaches the car. The alternating current is then converted to direct current inside the battery, making the Type-2 chargers less efficient.
Despite being able to charge a car in less than an hour, the fast charger has some limitations. For example, the Chevy Volt cannot be charged with the fast-charger—the Type-2 charger must be used.
Additionally, the fast charger will be more expensive than the Type-2 charger.
The fast charger costs $30,000, whereas the Type-2 charger costs $2,000.
The Nissan Leaf that researchers put fast-charging technology in has a range of 88 miles before it runs out of energy, making it one of the longer range all-electric vehicles available today.
According to the EPA, passenger vehicles sold in 2012 had an average fuel economy of 23.8 miles per gallon. Driving 88 miles would cost about $13 if the gas price were $3.50 a gallon.
Comparatively, the same distance of 88 miles would cost $2.20 to power a Nissan Leaf.
While the new fast-charging station is quick, there are methods being developed that will speed up the process even further.
“It’s possible to speed up the charging time quite a bit more,” Pritchard said. “Rather than sending a current to the battery as a constant current, you can send it in as small rapid pulses. Using this method, we can get the charging time down to under 10 minutes.”
In addition to pulse-charging technology, further research is being conducted at N.C. State to expand the ways vehicles can be charged.
Later this year, Pritchard said he plans to take the electric car technology one more step by installing a wireless charging system on Centennial Campus at N.C. State.
“One thing that we are looking at doing is inductive power transfer,” Pritchard said. “That’s where you are able to charge the vehicle from underneath the road while you are driving. We intend to install some of that on Centennial campus. We are working on doing that later this semester.”
Notwithstanding the costs, ABB plans to install 201 fast-charging stations in the Netherlands.