17 oct 22

Charge EVs in 5 minutes? NASA says it’s possible

A technique developed by NASA for use in space could help deliver EV charging rates that are five times faster than currently possible. If this would effectively be applied to EV charging infrastructure, it would eliminate many of the obstacles to electrification. 

Filling up a car with petrol or diesel takes just a few minutes. Today, even the fastest chargers take about half an hour to deliver a substantial charge to your electric vehicle (EV). And these chargers are still vastly outnumbered by others that can take hours to entirely charge up an EV. 

At-home charging

But what if you could charge that EV as fast as you can fill up a car with an internal combustion engine (ICE)? That would eliminate a lot of inconvenience. In the first place, by reducing the charging/waiting time itself. But that reduction in turn also reduces the need for at-home or even on-site charging infrastructure (provided the public charging service is competitively priced and widely available). 

So where does this miracle solution come from? Literally from outer space. Some time ago, the engineers at America’s national space agency NASA developed a technology for use on board the International Space Station (ISS; pictured). It’s a complex cooling technique that helps certain electrical systems in space maintain extremely low temperature levels. 

Subcooled flow

As it turns out, at those very cold temperature levels, the electrical systems can deliver almost five times the electrical current compared to the most advanced EV chargers. ‘Subcooled flow boiling’, to call the NASA technique by its official name, can cool cables carrying high charges, which then can facilitate a faster flow of electricity without the risk of the components overheating.

In a blog post explaining the technique, NASA said it had developed it to deliver “nuclear fission power systems for missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond; vapor compression heat pumps to support Lunar and Martian habitats; and systems to provide thermal control and advanced life support on board spacecraft (such as the ISS, Ed.)” 

Application of this technology to EV charging would result “in unprecedented reduction of the time required to charge a vehicle and may remove one of the key barriers to worldwide adoption of electric vehicles."

Image: Shutterstock

Authored by: Frank Jacobs