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Sunday, July 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

World’s fastest public electric vehicle charging station opens in southern Mexico

The company aims to mimic the speed and ease of traditional gas station pit stops, doing its part to push the envelope in an industry hungry for bold solutions.

PUEBLA, Mexico (CN) — The world’s fastest electric vehicle charging station open to the public is now in operation in Puebla, Mexico. 

The chargers at the Supercool Mobility Center, an electric vehicle transition innovation center located in an industrial neighborhood just off the main highway that runs through Puebla, can fully charge an electric vehicle in as little as six minutes, depending on the car. The gas station-style canopy and chargers were designed and built by the U.S.-based companies XC Power and QiOn.

The terminal is “the first public charging station with a capacity of 1 megawatt of power, making it the de facto station with the most capacity and the fastest in the world,” the Supercool Mobility Center said in a statement published when the station opened on June 21.

The station is currently offering free charges as a promotion to attract customers, but will start charging six to eight pesos per kilowatt in August. 

At these prices, electric vehicle car drivers in Puebla will soon be able to get around five times more bang for their buck in comparison to combustible fuels, according to station manager Marcelo Copantitla.

“I just charged this car with 19.56 kilowatts, which took it from 36% battery to 100%,” he said standing next to a model e10x made by Chinese car company JAC. “We’re talking about approximately 120 pesos to fill up.”

That comes out to just over US $7 at the current exchange rate, with a charge time of around 45 minutes for that particular model. Luxury vehicles like the Audi e-tron or the Porsche Taycan have a much higher capacity — up to 300 kilowatts — and can charge in a few as six minutes.

Prices like these are what made Puebla resident Mauricio Hernández, 44, decide to make the switch to an electric car in June. He stopped by the QiOn-XC Power charging station on July 6 to fill up his new JAC e10x. 

Puebla resident Mauricio Hernández (left) chats with station manager Marcelo Copantitla while he waits for his new electric vehicle to charge at the recently opened QiOn-XC Power EV charging station in Puebla, Mexico, on July 6, 2023. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

“The price of gas changes too much, and my monthly fuel expenses were too high,” he said as Copantitla used a smartphone to interface with the charger, as customers will when the station starts having them pay.

The QiOn-XC Power station did not play a role in his decision to buy the vehicle, Hernández said, but it is a welcome faster alternative to other public charging stations in the city, which can take up to six hours to fill his little hatchback. 

“It’s much faster and much more convenient for me,” he said. “I pass by here every day.”

Copantitla said the station is currently serving around 15 customers per day.

Aside from their 1 megawatt capacity, the QiOn chargers achieve this speed by converting the electricity from alternating current to direct current before charging the car. Other public stations deliver AC energy to the car, which then must convert it to DC before sending it to the battery. 

This function may be the true key to the station’s speed, according to Stephen Low, a professor of electrical engineering at Caltech. He had never heard of a charger with that much capacity and said that it could even end up damaging a car’s battery.

“There haven’t been a lot of revolutionary changes to basic battery chemistry, and the faster you charge, the chemical process you need to create will shorten the lifespan of the battery,” he said. 

The 1 megawatt capacity may be more publicity than significant technological advancement, Low said, but he still liked the idea for its boldness.

“It does have important value in that you sort of push the envelope,” he said. “If you demonstrate that this can be done, even if it turned out not to be the most useful thing, you can create conditions for other innovations and other products and services that may become extremely useful. We always like pushing the envelope any way we can.”

QiOn-XC Power EV charging station manager Marcelo Copantitla uses a smartphone to process the charge of Mauricio Hernández's new electric car at the Supercool Mobility Center located in Puebla, Mexico, on July 6, 2023. (Cody Copeland/Courthouse News)

The big idea behind the Supercool Mobility Center and its partner electric vehicle charging companies is to promote sustainability in all aspects of its business. The canopy, for instance, is made of just three materials — a metal base, a laminated wood roof frame and a roof of 72 solar panels that generate around 61 megawatts per year. The company gets the electricity for charging cars from Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission and sells the electricity it generates from the panels back to the commission. 

Copantitla admits that at first glance laminated wood may seem like an odd and unsustainable material with which to build such structures, but said that in reality, it is reducing the company’s carbon footprint. 

“If that wood had been burned, it would have polluted by sending all the carbon it had absorbed over the tree's lifetime back into the atmosphere,” he said. “So by transforming the wood into this structure, we keep that carbon encapsulated in it.”

The laminated wood has a lifetime of up to 20 years and can be taken down and used for other projects afterward, giving the material even more life. 

“At Supercool Mobility Centers, our intention is to have people come and see how the mobility transition can happen — is happening,” said Copantitla. 

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Categories / Environment, International, Technology

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