The startling rise and rise of the EV over the past 10 years as a real alternative is almost mind-boggling, but there are still a couple of things holding it back.
Although the cost is still high compared with conventional alternatives, what apparently puts people off most is a lingering concern about recharging on longer journeys. The public rapid-charging network is growing fast but the time it takes to ‘refuel’ an EV on the move still smacks of inconvenience.
Drivers who aren’t car enthusiasts don’t want to be educated about the differences in EV ownership and don’t want to adapt – they just want them to be as convenient as what they’ve got already. Leaving aside the reliability or the coverage of the charging network, it’s the ability to pull into a station for a splash and dash that’s missing. It’s the difference between a few minutes and half an hour.
Fifty-kilowatt rapid chargers are still slow compared with a fuel pump and 22kW public ‘fast’ charge points are now, literally, a waste of space. What would help democratise the EV is the adoption of an industry standard of 800V, allowing charging in half the time taken with a typical 400V system.
An 800V, 64kWh battery could be charged from 20% to 80% by an 800V, 350kW charger in a little over seven minutes.
Switching to 800V doesn’t mean an all-new battery cell technology, just the way cells are connected inside the battery. It does mean that electrical components on the car have to change but that’s something suppliers like Hitachi, which supplied the Porsche Taycan inverter, have in hand. Major EV manufacturers are moving in that direction too.
The recently announced Hyundai Ioniq 5, based on the new, dedicated E-GMP EV platform, will have an 800V architecture that can be charged at 232kW. That will boost capacity from 10% to 80% (over 320 kilometres of range) in 18 minutes. It’s coming and it has to.
Slow public charging implies more costly chargers and more parking space for increasing numbers of EVs to charge in, so ultra-fast charging across the board can’t come soon enough.