NASA is funding a research project at Purdue University aimed at accelerating electric charging through a new cable cooling system that could reduce charging times up to 5 minutes.
The system has demonstrated its ability to work and is being tested on the International Space Station. The issue of electric vehicle charging is not only a terrestrial matter but also a critical concern for future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, making it a subject of research and study.
Experts confirm that increased performance is accompanied by increased temperatures, necessitating the need for oversized components throughout the system. The charging cable itself requires large conductors. The objective is to reduce operating temperatures without significant side effects on system size or component weight.
The leader of this research group is Prof. Issam Mudawar from Purdue’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. Mudawar began working on this technology in 2017 in collaboration with Ford. The initial version was presented in 2021, and improvements have been made recently, thanks to the interest of the scientific community.
How can this space technology be combined with the automotive industry?
The current electric vehicle charging process is influenced by at least two factors: the capacity of the batteries installed in the vehicles (measured in kilowatt-hours) and the charging power of the stations (measured in kilowatts).
One of the key challenges in charging systems is the cable that connects the station to the vehicle. Versions used for fast charging utilize 350 amperes and require large conductors, making them impractical. To achieve the desired 5-minute threshold (which the entire industry aspires to), a current of 1,400 amperes (775 kW) would be necessary. However, NASA noted that “the most advanced battery chargers supply only up to 520 amperes of current, and most chargers available to consumers support up to 150 amperes.”
The proposed solution involves using a non-conductive coolant pumped through the charging cable. This heat dissipation system would deliver 4.6 times the current of current high-performance chargers on the market (520 amperes), removing up to 24.22 kilowatts of heat. “The charging cable developed by Purdue can deliver 2,400 amperes, much more than the 1,400 amperes needed to reduce the charging time of an electric vehicle to 5 minutes,” stated NASA.
This technology represents only the first step toward ultra-fast charging, as a next-generation cable must be accompanied by an appropriate battery and power supply source.