- The transition from 400-volt to 800-volt EV charging systems offers advantages such as added charging power, enhanced performance, increased efficiency, and weight savings.
- However, there are also drawbacks to the conversion, including the need to convert existing charging infrastructure and redesign current EV models to accommodate the higher voltage systems.
- The adoption of 800-volt architecture by EV manufacturers is increasing, with notable models like the Porsche Taycan, Hyundai Ioniq 5, Genesis G80 EV, Kia EV 6, and Audi E-Tron GT already utilizing 800-volt systems. Tesla’s Cybertruck will also feature an 800-volt architecture.
Let’s face it, in the blossoming age of the electric vehicle (EV), electricity is the driver’s new must-have. Some car owners may find this a positive pivot as the price of gasoline is at an all-time high, with buyer’s pockets being emptied by up to $6 per gallon. On the other hand, with the rising cost of electricity, some find the new fuel a definite downer when considering taking the electric vehicle plunge.
Regardless if drivers love or hate the EV idea, with government mandates such as California’s 2035 ban on gasoline-power cars, electricity will become a necessary source to feed our hungry electric motors. So, the revolution begins, and our future shows electric power is our new fuel, EV batteries are our new gas tanks, electric system chargers are our new pumps, and parking lots filled with stalls next to an electric outlet are our new gas stations.
With all this change, have we paused and wondered what we really needed to know about making our EV go? Like all good tech devices, nothing gets charged without its charger, so that’s where we began, taking a look at the differences between 400-volt and 800-volt EVs and their chargers. Tesla, for instance, currently adopts a 400-volt architecture on most of its vehicles, but still manages reasonable charging times, while the Cybertruck is supposed to feature an 800-volt architecture.
In this comparison of 400-volt and 800-volt EV charging systems, we have garnered information from Engineering.Com, Tesla, and the U.S. Department of Transportation.
400-Volt vs. 800-Volt EV Charging Systems
Advantages And Disadvantages Of A Higher Voltage
A simplistic description of the necessary components of an EV charging system includes the vehicle’s:
- And other electrical accouterments
The 400-volt system is the automaker’s current industry standard, and it’s been working reasonably well, despite some misconceptions popping up occasionally. The 800-volt system is the replacement and is on the horizon for a complete takeover for several reasons. Simply put, a higher voltage charging system equates to a bigger, better mousetrap offering:
- Added charging power
- Enhanced performance
- Increased efficiency
- Weight savings
The Downsides Of The Conversion To 800-Volt Electrical Systems
On the flip side, there are also drawbacks to the conversion of a 400 to 800-volt system. Hard to imagine that optimizing performance and efficiency could have a less-than-stellar result; however, the challenges predominately come into play with the transition of use. Because current charger use focuses on the 400-volt architecture, and so does the charging infrastructure.
Overall, charging stations are few and far between when compared to gas stations, and the need to convert the already somewhat limited current 400-volt charging locations into 800-volt locations will set that back even further. Either way, readily available and convenient charging stations will need to be adequately addressed to put the rapidly increasing EV fleet on the road with viable “re-fueling” options.
Additionally, the changeover from an existing EV model’s 400-volt system to an 800-volt system will force a redevelopment of the current 400-volt electric vehicle designs. Maybe that is not as complicated as re-inventing the wheel, but is a reinvention just the same. Such redesigns of current EV models will be required to allow more physical space necessary for the higher voltage systems, and that is only the tip of this electric iceberg. The layout of the system, the system components, and safety testing are all steps in the mass production of EVs with 800-volt architecture.
Furthermore, cost is always a factor in a consumer purchase, and the research and development for EV redesign could cause the EV price tag to climb. As we know, price hikes can be a hard pill for car buyers to swallow; but possibly one we have become comfortably numb to, in our post-Covid inflation society.
400-volt to 800-volt Charging
Changes Are Expected
EV manufacturers ride both sides of the fence on the 400-volt to 800-volt conversion. Enhancing performance and efficiency with 800-volt gives car owners a quicker charge. A quicker charge is obviously more convenient, but that’s not the only upside of the shortened downtime at the charger. The charge time may come down to familiarity.
Right now, consumers are used to carving out an average of two minutes per fill-up at a gas station and then conservatively traveling in the 200-plus mile range. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average time eaten up when charging a Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) stretches that two-minute inconvenience into the range of 20 minutes to one hour. That’s a considerable difference for potentially the same number of traveling miles, and possibly too big of a hoop for some consumers to be willing to jump through on the regular.
Switching To EVs Requires A Mindset Change
Think about that, if the switch to EV was going to cost you 18 to 58 minutes every 200 miles, would you be willing to, provided you do not have a charger setup at your garage for convenient overnight charging, in which case you could eventually become stranded without carefully planing your trips? The 800-volt system whittling away at charging time is not only more accommodating to the driver of an EV, but it also reduces expenses by reducing the time the charger system draws on the electric grid, bringing even more truth to the saying time is money. More time, and reduced electricity cost – that sounds attractive and like a no-brainer for EV manufacturers.
So what’s the holdup? That’s a question with a multipart answer. In short, the perks of the 800-volt system are offset by the lack of 800-volt infrastructure and the increased cost, time, and effort of EV redesign from existing 400-volt to 800-volt architecture. Even so, the benefits seemingly outweigh the challenge of finances, which will likely ultimately be absorbed by the consumer, leaving the EV automakers slowly but surely moving to higher voltage systems – at least many are or already have.
Current EVs That Have 800-Volt Systems
Manufacturers Are Catching Up
Currently, EVs equipped with 800-volt architecture come from Porsche, Hyundai, Genesis, Kia, and Audi in these models:
Other automakers that have jumped on the bandwagon, committing to 800-volt architecture are:
For the best of both voltage worlds, Kia and Hyundai have vehicles that offer the world’s first patented multi-charging system for 400-volt and 800-volt systems and Genesis has introduced a charging system that boosts 400-volt supplied by the charger to 800-volt.
Tesla Will Ease In Toward 800-Volt
Most notably, EV giant, Tesla who produced over 1.3 million cars in 2022 and just under one million in 2021 hasn’t fully committed to the 800-volt model. With record revenue for a pioneer of the EV world, why would CEO Elon Musk decide not to drink the Kool-Aid? Simple economics is the answer. For now, Musk has decided the return on investment – the value of the cost of redesigning an existing model’s 400-volt to an 800-volt system just isn’t there and anyway, Tesla has many other capital-intensive irons in the pot.
The Cybertruck Will Be The First Tesla With An 800-Volt Architecture
Interestingly, in a recent webcast of the 2023 Q3 earnings report and question and answer session, Tesla revealed that its long-awaited Cybertruck will begin deliveries fully-rigged with an 800-volt architecture. Tesla credits the cost-savings of a high-voltage powertrain for the heavy vehicle as the reason for the adaptation, and didn’t mention any other models that would be similarly equipped. The verified Cybertruck X account notified followers the Cybertruck Delivery Event would take place on November 30.
The 800-volt architecture adds to the rising expense of Cybertruck production, which now prolongs estimations of the vehicle, contributing to Tesla’s profitability for 18 months post-initial delivery. Tesla may not be completely onboard with a full transition to 800-volt EVs, but the info that their toe is in the water spotlights that maybe not now, but in the not-so-distant future, the wave of 800-volt charging systems could be ubiquitous in the EV market and a full charge in the time it takes to down a cup of morning coffee could be the new time required for the EV fill-up.