As announced last month during the shareholder meeting, Tesla is upgrading its Superchrger Cables from a thick copper cable (and it is very thick – more than even a gas station fuel hose) to a thinner mystery cable that is liquid cooled.
I can’t speculate what is going on inside the cable – whether it is a superconductor or just a low resistance conductor that is prevented from overheating – but it is said to allow more capacity. Today’s Tesla Superchargers top out charge at 135kW. However, we know Tesla is trying to speed up Superchargers even further. In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Straubel said that Tesla aimed to get Supercharging times down to 5-10 minutes:
“It’s not going to happen in a year from now. It’s going to be hard. But I think we can get down to five to 10 minutes,” Straubel said in an interview with MIT Technology Review. He noted that the current superchargers, which deliver 120 kilowatts of electricity, “seemed pretty crazy even 10 years ago.” Conventional public charging stations deliver well under 10 kilowatts.
One challenge of fast charging is that delivering power to a battery very rapidly can cause it to overheat. To avoid damaging the battery, the outside charger needs to communicate with the electronics that monitor the state of the batteries, including their voltage and temperature, and quickly adjust charging rates accordingly. “To do that kind of charging, everything has to be designed and working in perfect synchrony,” Straubel says.
Achieving five-minute charges will require not only further improving the charging system, but also improving the interface with the electrical grid. As it is, only some places on the grid can handle 120-kilowatt charging. Drawing large amounts of power from the grid also incurs demand charges from the utility, increasing the cost of the system.
But Straubel says that Tesla plans to get around these problems by equipping supercharging stations with solar panels and batteries.
Improvement starts with the Supercharger. A 5-10 minute re’feuling’ would be yet another Tesla gamechanger competitive advantage.