electric vehicle charging

Nasa technology could be used to charge EVs in under five minutes

Image credit: Dreamstime

Experimental technology designed to cool equipment in space could cut down the time needed to charge an electric vehicle (EV) to five minutes or less, Nasa said.

Researchers found that technology developed by Nasa and Purdue University for use on the International Space Station (ISS) could also be used to charge electric vehicles at a much faster rate than that which is currently possible.

The novel technique, known as "subcooled flow boiling", could boost the amount of electrical current from EV chargers by roughly 1,400 amps - nearly five times the rate of up to 520 amps currently supplied to EVs, Nasa said.

The higher the electrical current, the more heat it generates. With this technology, Nasa could open the door to a faster flow of electricity without the risk of components overheating. 

Originally, subcooled flow boiling was developed to ensure that complex systems maintain specific temperatures in space. Space missions are expected to make use of this technology to control the temperature of nuclear fission power systems, vapour compression heat pumps, and systems to provide thermal control and advanced life support onboard spacecraft, as well as on the surfaces of Mars and the Moon. 

In a blog post, Nasa explained that this technology could also pave the way for the wider adoption of electric vehicles. 

"This same technology may make owning an electric-powered car here on Earth easier and more feasible," the blog said. "Application of this new technology resulted in (an) unprecedented reduction of the time required to charge a vehicle and may remove one of the key barriers to worldwide adoption of electric vehicles."

Usually, it takes EVs about 20 minutes to charge at a roadway station and several hours using an at-home charging station, with standard EV chargers tending to provide less than 150 amps, Nasa and Purdue researchers said. 

However, the new system could be used to "deliver 4.6 times the current of the fastest-available electric vehicle chargers on the market today by removing up to 24.22 kilowatts of heat". 

To test the technology, a team from Purdue University developed the ‘Flow Boiling and Condensation Experiment’ (FBCE), which saw them run two-phase fluid flow and heat transfer experiments in the long-duration microgravity environment onboard the ISS.

In the experiment, "dielectric (non-electrically conducting) liquid coolant is pumped through the charging cable, where it captures the heat generated by the current-carrying conductor," Nasa said.

Using the FBCE technology, the team said it achieved 2,400 amps along a cable using subcooled flow boiling.

The news from Nasa comes as electric vehicle sales are on track to hit an all-time high this year, according to the International Energy Agency's recently released ‘Tracking Clean Energy Progress’ update. The agency said worldwide sales of EVs doubled in 2021 to represent nearly 9 per cent of the car market and expects record sales this year "lifting them to 13 per cent of total light-duty vehicle sales globally."

In the UK, 23 EV charge point operators including Ionity, Instavolt and Osprey recently signed a letter urging the Chancellor to cut VAT on public charging, describing it as a “simple, relatively low-cost intervention” in light of the high electricity prices which “threaten consumers’ willingness” to switch to EVs.

In the future, Purdue University plans to work with EV or charging cable manufacturers to test the prototype on EVs within the next two years, the university said. 

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