Tesla’s Liquid-Cooled Cables Could Lead To Faster Charging At Supercharger Stations

Tesla Motors announced that it will be installing thinner, cooler cables at its Supercharger stations which could eventually speed up charge times.

Company CEO Elon Musk introduced an audience to the technology earlier this month during the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting. During the speech, he explained that a test station in Mountain View, Calif., had already been outfitted with the next generation cables.

“It has caused some customers to be quite puzzled that they are plugging a Supercharger with this tiny cord and they thought something was wrong,” said Musk of the new cables. “But that’s actually just our next generation cord, because if the cord is liquid-cooled, you can actually make it very thin and supple. So instead of trying to wrestle this sort of good-sized snake into the car, it’s the thin supple cord; it’s really great. And it also has the potential for increased power of the Supercharger long-term.”

Though Musk didn’t accentuate this last comment, the potential for the cable to carry more power could lead to a significant bonus for Tesla owners. Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield with Transport Evolved explained how the cooling helps the cables and what possibilities could emerge later from it.

“To reduce the resistance of a cable for a given current, you can either increase the cable’s cross-sectional area, or reduce its temperature,” Gordon-Bloomfield said. “A super-cooled cable is capable of carrying a much higher current than the same cable in a warm climate, so by cooling the cable along which the electricity passes, Tesla engineers have been able to improve the design of the Supercharger stall cables, replacing the bulky, stiff, unwieldy cables of early superchargers with a more flexible, smaller, liquid-cooled cable …

“The cooling system used on this next-generation of Tesla Superchargers also opens up the possibility that Tesla may one day be able to increase the current and therefore the speed of supercharging its cars, especially if the cooling system can lower the temperature significantly enough to allow a higher charge current without sacrificing the smaller, more manageable cabling.”

There are a few subtle differences with these new Superchargers: besides the slimmer cable, the plug that connects to the car is sleeker and a cooling vent has been added to the bottom of the stand.

At the test station in California, YouTube vlogger KmanAuto used his phone to capture a thermal image of the Supercharger and its liquid-cooled cables.

“You can hear the fans going and cooling,” he noted during the video (posted above. “You can see some heat coming out of there. It’s up to 90 [degrees Fahrenheit]. The cable’s at 102 [degrees]. That’s actually significantly cooler than what I record on non-liquid-cooled Superchargers.”

Tesla hasn’t outlined how or when it plans to roll out the new cables to Superchargers throughout the U.S. or the world, and didn’t comment further on the possibility of speeding up charge times.