Tesla patent shows new way to automated high-speed charging with external cooling

The next generation of electric vehicle charging stations are coming and while most companies are focusing on getting the highest charge rate possible, Tesla is also looking to automate the charging process to prepare its infrastructure for its fully self-driving update.

A recently released patent application gives a glimpse at a potential solution that Tesla could implement for both high speed charging and automated charging.

First off, a reminder that companies sometimes apply for patents and never end up commercializing the technology. Therefore, we shouldn’t get too excited and instead look at it from a point of view that Tesla worked on this tech and considered it interesting enough to patent it.

In this case, Tesla first applied to patent the technology back in 2014, later updated the application in 2016, and it was finally published earlier this month.

The application is titled ‘Charging station providing thermal conditioning of electric vehicle during charging session’ and depicts a ground-mounted system capable of automatically charging the battery pack with an outside cooling system, which could enable a higher charge rate.

Here are some of the most important sketches and diagrams showing the system in the patent application:

The form factor is similar to some of the wireless induction charging solutions, but it is wired and therefore, it should result in a slighly higher efficiency.

They describe how the thermal conditioning works in the application:

“An initial signal from the vehicle to the charging station is transmitted by wireless communication (e.g., Bluetooth), and this serves to couple the vehicle to the charging station. In response, the appropriate vehicle-charger connections can be established, including an electrical connection for the charging (and, in some implementations, a fluid connection for thermally conditioning the vehicle during the charging). Then, a temperature demand signal or any other form of thermal information can be sent to the charging station via a signal wire in the electrical connector.”

Batteries can get hot when they are being charged by direct current and therefore, a system with a more powerful cooling system outside of the vehicle could enable a much faster charge rate – something CEO Elon Musk hinted could be over 350 kW in the upcoming version 3 of the Tesla Supercharger.

The downside is the fact that it is installed in the ground adds complexity to the system compared to the previously showcased solution of the “robot-snake charger”.

Again, it doesn’t mean that either of those technologies will make it to market, but it is particularly interesting after we reported yesterday that a new building permit at Tesla’s Fremont factory references a “Tesla automated parking Superchargers”.

Especially since they would both enable automated parking, which is part of Tesla’s plan for self-driving vehicles. These solutions are also becoming more likely than the battery swap system, which is making a resurgence in popularity among speculators with the ‘Tesla Semi’.

Here’s the patent application in full:

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