How fast electric vehicle charging stops could get shorter without bulky cables

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Researchers at Ford and Purdue University have developed a new charging cable that, according to the automaker, could allow future electric vehicles to recharge in as little time as a refueling of gasoline.

The patent-pending design uses a new cooling method that takes advantage of the phase change of the 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 says.

Attention to cooling is essential to increase the charging speed. Faster charging requires more current to travel through a cable, which in turn generates more heat, which must be eliminated to keep components working, Michael Degner, senior technical chief, Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, said in a statement.

This charging cable won’t be commercially available for some time, as more research is expected, Ford noted. Issam Mudawar, the Purdue professor whose lab is conducting the research, said in a statement that further tests will be carried out over the next two years to determine charge rates for specific types of vehicles.

Ford and Purdue University Charging Research

Ford and Purdue University Charging Research

An alternative to the new cooling technology is the increase in cable thickness, which has been proposed for a new generation of cables necessary to load at 450 kw and above. But those cables are increasingly bulky.

In some electric vehicles, the air conditioning system for the vehicle already has a purpose in helping keep the battery cool to allow for faster charging. In 2020, automotive supplier Mahle unveiled a new air conditioning condenser designed with this purpose in mind, but from a charging hardware standpoint, the cooling systems take up significant space, use extra energy, and introduce additional maintenance needs.

Some of these phase change cooling methods could be put to use in the megawatts of charging hardware which is expected to be used for commercial trucks in the coming years.

Basically, charge at higher voltage allows high power charging without increasing the copper wire width in the charging cable. This, coupled with an innovation like this, could help keep weight and bulk manageable in the future.

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