Tag Archives: 2017 CES

ChargePoint Delivers Fast Charger Of The Future At CES

At CES today, ChargePoint raised the bar for DC fast charging with not just one new charger but a paradigm shift in DC fast charging that redefines the entire product category.

The ChargePoint Express Plus family revolutionizes DC fast charging by looking to the future and embracing the inevitable increases in charging speed demand with a modular design that allows hosts to upgrade as demand for faster charging speeds increases.

ChargePoint has 400 DC fast chargers (DCFCs) installed out in the field today, which are a mix of units from other manufacturers and ChargePoint units. The ChargePoint team has taken all of the learnings from those and rolled them into this new product family, which the EV company is confident can support the next several generations of EVs.

The Design

The modular design is built around the idea of individual power modules which invert AC from the grid and puts out 31 kW of DC to the charging cable. At the most basic DC Fast Charger installations for this family, each charging station can hold 1 or 2 power modules to support speeds of 31 kW and 62 kW, respectively.

Installing and linking two stations next to each other allows them to share these power modules — or power blades — much like pairs of Tesla Superchargers do today. If both chargers had two power modules, that would allow one of the chargers to charge a car at 124 kW. If another car connected to the other charger, the speed for each would drop down to the single station rate of 62 kW.

Charging … Cubed

Exciting, right? But that’s just the beginning. Adding more chargers allows them to play together in a larger group. 8 chargers can hold a maximum of 16 blades (2 in each), which can and will dynamically allocate the maximum available power to as many EVs as are charging at any given time.

If those chargers are in an apartment complex that is limited on power that it can supply to the chargers, they will dynamically allocate the available power to whichever car is connected and using power. One caveat is that the chargers can only allocate power in single-blade units — so, in 31 kW increments.

ChargePoint liked this modular design but had even bigger plans and took a chunk of 16 blades and dropped them into a cube which was then connected to a bank of chargers. Now those 8 chargers (or however many are connected) can share that pool of 16 power blades in addition to the blades that are built into the chargers.

Each blade is still the same 31 kW … but now the system has a LOT more blades in the pool to play with. Need more speed? Add another cube. Each charging station can go up to 400 kW using blades from other chargers or from a cube. Each cube can contain up to 500 kW of DC and can feed from 1–8 charging stations per cube.

Basically, this flexible, future-proof design allows system owners to start small with 1 or 2 chargers with a blade in each and provides flexibility for owners to add more blades or cubes with blades as customer demand grows for faster charging speeds.

The Power of the Network

For those familiar with virtual computing stacks, these power blades operate much like blade servers. The power modules can be hot swapped. They can communicate back to ChargePoint at the individual blade level for predictive maintenance and will automagically fail over to other power modules in the pool in the event of an unplanned failure.

One of ChargePoint’s strengths is the network which comes with a full set of tools and support for owners to configure and tune to deliver the customer experience they are looking for.

Summary

If I sound excited about this innovative new product line, I am. This truly feels like the charging system of the future. Yes, there are still a ton of variables that impact the viability of a charging location — installation costs, utility capability to supply such a massive amount of power in a given location, demand charges, customer demand, site host willingness to commit real estate for cubes, etc., etc., but just the fact that the product exists on the charging side to support faster charging speeds is huge.

I will break this family down in more detail in a future post but wanted to start with the basics of the new family to share this exciting news in a bite-size chunk. If you’re hungry for more information about it NOW, check out the official ChargePoint Express Plus page.

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Faraday Future Shoots For The Stars With The FF91 Concept

Tonight, Faraday Future unveiled what it believes is not just the next step in the evolution of the automobile. No, the team at Faraday Future have stated that the FF91 is a complete step change. It is a new species. Huh? Yeah, me too. Faraday Future has always acted a bit differently, talked a bit differently, and done things a bit differently, so maybe this is just another Faraday Future thing, but don’t take my word for it — they unpacked a ton of details about the FF91 in the big reveal tonight.

The Outside

The FF91 exterior had been teased for so long by the Faraday Future team that it was almost anticlimactic seeing it revealed tonight, but at the same time, it’s a completely new beast. I can’t shake the feeling that it looks just like a Range Rover Evoque with a full suite of sensors on it, but maybe that’s just me. Even with two different prototypes driving past, it was hard to get a good feel for the car, as the masses were packed in so tight around it for the vast majority of the night.

The UFO line! FF mentioned this mysterious “UFO line” at the reveal of the FFzero1 in January last year and continued that talk tonight. The UFO line manifested itself in the FF91 in the form of a horizontal line about 1/3 of the way up the car that quite honestly doesn’t feel unique or creative, nor does it add anything unique to the exterior of the vehicle.

What it does do is to sound strange. I’m not sure how a company starting out from scratch (albeit, with a fully stacked team) thought it would be a good idea to add such an odd label to a rather unassuming design cue, but hey, there it is. The UFO line is here to stay folks.

Richard Kim, Head Designer at Faraday Future, took the stage to talk about the various styling cues that were integrated into the design of the car and broke the FF91 down into 3 sections — the black section, which includes the tires and rolling chassis (like the Tesla skateboard); the silver section, which is the lateral panel of silver that wraps the car (presumably metal?); and the glass section, which creates unique spaces for each of the passengers in the vehicle (why talk about a driver in an autonomous vehicle?).

Looking towards the rear of the car, there’s a fin on either side of the exterior of the car that reaches up from the silver section into the glass section of the FF91. It creates a very fun effect from the rear, as it creates a gap between the glass and the metal, much like the rear quarter panel section on the BMW i8 (which I love!). It’s not clear that this helps or hurts the drag coefficient of the car, but with it already down at .25, it’s clear that aerodynamics was a priority in the design of the FF91.

Fins

Comparisons

Tonight, Faraday Future talked about the FF91 as a production vehicle. That’s tough to swallow, as this car is still so far from being in production that the title just doesn’t stick. There’s literally not even a factory that can build it let alone a final vehicle for the factory to build. The blatant comparisons between the still-in-development FF91 and a car I can buy today — the Tesla Model S P100DL — frankly seemed disingenuous:

→ 0–60 MPH in 2.39 seconds … just a hair faster than the Tesla Model S P100D (2.5 seconds).

→ 1050 horsepower as compared to Tesla’s  760 horsepower.

→ 200 kW charging as compared to the ~130 kW charging speeds of Tesla Superchargers (though, Tesla recently indicated plans to increase that dramatically)

→ 130 kWh battery (optional) as compared to Tesla’s max pack size of 100 kWh

→ 378 miles of range … versus 315 miles of max Model S range

→ with the ultimate comparison being the in-person drag race between the FF91 and the P100D where the FF car beat out the Tesla Model S P100D by .01 seconds at the event (2.59 vs 2.60).

Looking back on the presentation and the stats shared by the FF team, it’s even more clear that the entire presentation was one big statement that “FF is better than Tesla in every way.” I wish all the best for the FF team but there’s still a long ways to go before the FF91 gets into the hands of consumers.

It’s also odd that the Variable Platform Architecture that FF touted as groundbreaking at CES last year is effectively the same skateboard design that Tesla has for the Model S, just with a better graphical representation when the pack gets larger or smaller.

The FF91

We knew the FF 91 would be autonomous and Faraday Future is still using that language. It’s a tough commitment to make because mandating that it be autonomous at launch can easily delay the car months if not years, as each state and every nation has unique laws governing autonomous driving that need to be worked through before the car could hit the streets.

Shifting to autonomous driving allows all of the passengers to engage with the car via the in-built WiFi hotspots that bridge the “multiple CAT6 LTE modems” into a WiFi network for passengers. Having a high-quality internet connection is critical in the next (unannounced) part of the story — the interior — which is sure to be packed with LeTV-style content consumption options.

Rolling all of this together, the FF91 is a powerhouse of technology mixed with a slew of new EV bones underpinned by the largest battery ever put into a “production” electric vehicle.

The Name

While this is yet to be confirmed by Faraday Future, we have it on good authority that the name 91 (“nine one” … not ninety one) is an amalgam of what Faraday Future calls the best number — 9 — and then 1 for the first version. So, it amounts to the first version of the best car, which is actually pretty neat. It was strange that Faraday Future presented the name of the car without explaining it, but perhaps there was too much to fit into the already bloated agenda and the explanation didn’t make the cut. Or perhaps Faraday Future wanted it to remain a bit mysterious.

What’s Next?

Faraday Future will open up reservations for the FF91 shortly, whereby potential customers can thunk down $5,000 to reserve their very own FF91. That’s a large chunk of cash for a vehicle that has no sales price announced (though, it will likely be up around $100,000), no factory to build it, and no timeline to back up the actual production of the car.

I really do hope the best for the FF team and the FF91 looks great to me … but there are a lot of gaps in the data — large, obvious gaps — that call into question what’s actually happening behind the scenes. Was the presentation this year just a ploy to get potential customers to drop a few thousand, so that FF could use that as capital seed money to build the factory? Is FF a shell company for LeEco? Will the FF91 ever have an actual production run? How much will it cost?

There are a lot of serious questions that beg for more than vague, futuristic answers, but FF seems content to leave potential customers in the dark. There is one thing we know after tonight — time will tell if FF will succeed … and based on the rate at which it was burning through capital in 2016, we’ll know sooner rather than later.

For more information on the Faraday Future FF91, check out the official website and the official press release.

Images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica 

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