A research group with members including Porsche and BMW has unveiled a new 450 kW charging station prototype in Germany (via New Atlas), which has a capacity of three times that of Tesla’s existing Superchargers. Supplying that much power means that the new station, built by the FastCharge research group, could supply around 100 km (62 miles) of range in just three minutes, or charge a BMW i3 from 10 to 80 percent in 15 minutes.
In contrast, Tesla’s Superchargers currently have a maximum capacity of 145 kW. However, FastCharge is unlikely to maintain this same lead for long: Tesla has already upgraded its network from 120 kW in the past, and it plans to increase the maximum capacity of its network to 250 kW next year.
Unluckily for Tesla, this upgrade still won’t be enough to make it the fastest charging network in America. It recently saw its first 350 kW charging station installed in California by Electrify America.
FastCharge’s new station might have a high theoretical capacity, but the actual amount of power drawn by average electric vehicles is likely to be considerably less for the time being — at least until the cars catch up. The prototype Porsche Taycan that was used in the demonstration (which is due to be released next year) only drew a little over 400 kW, while other vehicles such as the Audi E-Tron or Jaguar I-Pace can draw 150 kW and 100 kW, respectively. FastCharge’s prototype station supports cars with both 400- and 800-volt battery systems, and it will automatically pick the best one to use when it’s plugged into a vehicle.
There’s also the problem of availability. Although FastCharge has its prototype charger up and running in Germany, it will take time for the infrastructure to become widely available. There are also still questions about the power grid’s ability to handle a large amount of power-hungry charging stations delivering power all at once.
Outside of charging station availability, charge time has been one of the key challenges for electric vehicles to overcome. Even if a gas station installs dozens of charging stations, these will struggle to meet demand if cars need to be plugged in for half an hour at a time. Previously, Tesla has proposed measures including replacing a car’s battery entirely to cut down on charging times, but now it seems simply pumping more power through a charging station might solve the problem after all.