800 V technology: the Holy Grail of electrics?

An electric car is expensive, it’s very heavy and it takes ages to recharge… How to fix it? In theory, there is a simple and effective solution: the 800 V electric battery architecture. Allowing faster charging and therefore opting for smaller, lighter and less expensive batteries, is 800 V technology provided the grail so coveted by manufacturers and aficionados of electron cars? Almost, but not quite.

Virtuous circle

In concrete terms, 800 V battery technology offers many advantages compared to the “classic” 400 V architectures mainly used by manufacturers for their electric models. Capable of managing twice the energy, an 800 V battery allows significantly faster recharging which would recover a full charge in 10 to 15 minutes in optimal conditions thanks to high-performance terminals with a power greater than 300 kW . By dividing by 2 or 3 the recharging time compared to 400 V electric cars, the 800 V architecture would make the use of this type of model less restrictive and would bring their travel capacities closer to those of thermal models.

In addition, since it would take much less time to recharge the battery, manufacturers could therefore consider lower capacity packs, therefore less bulky and above all less heavy. A possibility that goes in the direction of greater energy efficiency and therefore increased autonomy for the same amount of energy consumed. What’s more, smaller batteries would also be cheaper and would lower the price of electric cars – an especially attractive option for entry-level models – to the benefit of the customer. Or to increase the profit margin, for the benefit of the manufacturer… or both!

The flip side

However, if some manufacturers have already opted for an 800 V architecture – Porsche with the Taycan and Audi with the e-Tron GT or Hyundai/Kia with the Ioniq 5 and EV6 – and will generalize the latter: the Volkswagen group for the next models electric cars from Porsche and Audi (at the top of the range) with the new PPE platform, this technical option is also of interest to other players in the automotive industry who see it as a solution for the future: General Motors, Stellantis, Volvo/Polestar / Geely, etc.

But 800 V technology is only of interest if you can recharge at very high power – 250 kW or more – and that’s where the problem lies. Certainly, Ionity already offers terminals with a capacity of up to 350 kW and the new generation of Tesla Superchargers is announced at 324 kW. But in reality, this power is not always really available when recharging your vehicle… for lack of a suitable infrastructure. Because offering such recharging power is one thing, but it requires the supply network to be able to provide it, which is still too rarely the case.

What solutions?

To remedy this, it will of course be necessary to go through an update, or even an overhaul of the public electricity network – we are not out of the inn – or that the suppliers (Ionity, Tesla and others) develop their own sources of electricity. “sustainable” supplies and equip their stations with energy storage systems (buffer batteries, etc.) to be able to restore a large quantity of energy at high speed without overloading the public network.

Leave a Comment