Using DC Fast Chargers
A primer on how to use fast-charging stations.
It’s time for another installment of our I Speak Electric series and today we’re taking a dive into the world of DC Fast Charging. We’re talking Supercharger Networks, 350kW units, Tap-and-Go charging, and a whole lot more. Stick around for the details!
What is a DC Fast Charger?
So, what is a DC Fast Charger? Firstly, DC stands for Direct Current. Now, we’ve already made a full video about DC so check that out if you want more detail. Today we’re still talking about DC charging, but we’re taking a slightly different tack. We’re going to be a bit more practical and talk about the chargers themselves and how you use them.
So, instead of looking at all of the different individual units that we use for DC charging, let’s think a bit bigger and talk about charging networks for a moment. We’ll start with what is probably the most well-known in the world, and of course, we’re talking about the iconic Tesla Supercharging Network. There are now more than 25,000 stalls littered around the world in varying degrees of density. Places like California in the US have a lot…not so much in places like South East Asia. As you would imagine, the network is expanding constantly, and even the chargers themselves are developing. The latest V3 Superchargers cater for charging peaks well past 200kW.
But Tesla doesn’t have a monopoly on the DC charging scene of course. In North America, Electrify America has made huge strides over the last few years. Launched in 2017 following the Dieselgate scandal, the first stalls opened in 2018. At the last count, they had 647 live stations, with another 121 in the works.
In Europe, there are a number of networks vying for supremacy. IONITY now has over 400 locations spread across Europe with an average of 6 stalls per location. In the UK, Gridserve has purchased the Electric Highway and has opened an electric forecourt with banks of DC rapid chargers.
DC Charging Speeds and Your Car
So, let’s pause for a second because all of the talk so far has been about the chargers and the various networks. But, a charger will only give what the car is willing to take! If you were an early adopter of EVs, you might have a car that has a maximum DC charge speed in the late 40s in terms of kW accepted. So even if you pull up to 350kW charger, you’re only ever going to take something like 47 or 48kW!
But many modern EVs are taking above that now. Something like the iD.4 can take 125kW. But some EVs are really pushing on. A Tesla Model 3, IONIQ5 or Porsche Taycan can take nearly 250kW in optimal conditions.
So it’s not as straightforward as you may think. If you pull up to a DC charger and see that it’s rated for 350kW…calm down because your Mazda MX-30 can only take about 10% of that!
But that’s enough about charging speeds…let’s move on to talk about what is needed to charge your EV at a DC station.
In the vast majority of cases, it’s unfortunately not as simple as just plugging in your car and walking away. Now, I can hear all the Tesla owners watching this screaming at me! Yes, I know, the Supercharger network is wonderful, you can just plug in and let the car do its thing. But that’s not really the case for all other networks and chargers.
In most cases you need either an RFID card to swipe or an app that you can use to tell the charger it’s you…and ‘please give me some electrons’! In many of these cases, you top up your account in advance, then plug your car in and swipe your card.
Now, let’s face it, that’s a bit of a faff. And it adds complexity to a process that we just don’t need. Thankfully, some operators are installing types of ‘tap and go’ chargers. You just plug in your car, tap your VISA or Credit Card, and they just bill you for what you used. It takes away the hassle of downloading apps, subscriptions and carting around RFID cards.
Future of DC charging
So, that’s a broad-stroke look at DC Fast Charging. But, as we very well know in the EV world, things are changing, and they’re changing fast! For one, DC charging may not even use wires in the future! Yes, you heard me right. Inductive charging is developing, and if costs come down, we may see induction pads at traffic lights or in car parks around the world.
Another technology that the likes of Nio are using in China is battery swapping. So, in a sense, that may even get rid of DC Fast Charging altogether as the spare batteries can be charged slowly on AC overnight.
So there we are folks, another whirlwind dive into the world of EVs, and DC charging in particular. As always, it’s time for me to stop talking and for you to have your say.
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