Automotive

Piëch claims its new electric sportscar charges to 80% in a crazy 4:40 minutes

Piëch claims its new electric ...
A gorgeous electric GT sportscar in its own right, the Piëch Mark Zero concept might be even more remarkable as a flagbearer for new ultra-fast charging battery technology
A gorgeous electric GT sportscar in its own right, the Piëch Mark Zero concept might be even more remarkable as a flagbearer for new ultra-fast charging battery technology
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Toni Piëch, left, with co-founder and creative director Rea Stark Rajic
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Toni Piëch, left, with co-founder and creative director Rea Stark Rajic
The Piëch Mark Zero concept: 500-kilometre range with ultra-fast charging
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The Piëch Mark Zero concept: 500-kilometre range with ultra-fast charging
The Mark Zero should be a thrilling sports car to drive, with over 600 horsepower and a weight distribution designed to mimic a mid or rear engined sports car
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The Mark Zero should be a thrilling sports car to drive, with over 600 horsepower and a weight distribution designed to mimic a mid or rear engined sports car
Charging from 0-80% in less than five minutes is an extraordinary claim
4/5
Charging from 0-80% in less than five minutes is an extraordinary claim
A gorgeous electric GT sportscar in its own right, the Piëch Mark Zero concept might be even more remarkable as a flagbearer for new ultra-fast charging battery technology
5/5
A gorgeous electric GT sportscar in its own right, the Piëch Mark Zero concept might be even more remarkable as a flagbearer for new ultra-fast charging battery technology

This electric grand tourer will be a ton of fun to drive, with three motors combining for 450 kW (603 hp) and a lightweight body built for beautiful handling. But its biggest contribution could come from its high-capacity battery, which boasts some of the most extreme fast charging capabilities we've seen.

A little family history

Piëch founder, Anton Piëch, is one of 12 children of Ferdinand Piëch – the man who took Audi to new heights in the 70s and 80s, then presided over Volkswagen between 1993 and 2015, turning it into the juggernaut it is today and earning himself the title of Car Executive of the Century in 1999. For reference, the previous Car Executive of the Century was a fellow named Henry Ford, so he's in decent company.

Ferdinand's father (another Anton Piëch) married into the Porsche family two generations ago, but this new branch seems to be keen to continue the Porsche family naming traditions; looking back up the family tree it's nothing but Ferdinands and Antoniuses all the way back to a Wenceslaus Porsche some 230-odd years ago. In recent years, the Piëches and Porsches have been engaged in a bitter family feud over an automobile empire worth billions, largely driven by the relentless and ruthless ambition of Ferdinand Piëch –and apparently fanned by his interests outside the boardroom.

Toni Piëch, left, with co-founder and creative director Rea Stark Rajic
Toni Piëch, left, with co-founder and creative director Rea Stark Rajic

Young Anton, the man at the center of our story today, is half Piëch and half Porsche, born out of a scandalous 12-year affair Ferdinand embarked on with Marlene Porsche, who was married to his cousin Gerd Porsche at the time. He later ditched her for a nanny, adding fresh salt to the family wounds.

So young Anton's very existence may be something of a sore point in this royal family of German automakers. His veins are thick with blood from Porsche, Audi, Volkswagen, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Bentley, among other brands his father corralled over the years. No pressure, then, as he strikes out on his own venture: an electric sports car company bearing the family name.

Charging from 0-80% in less than five minutes is an extraordinary claim
Charging from 0-80% in less than five minutes is an extraordinary claim

The Piëch Mark Zero

Scheduled for an unveiling in the next couple of days in Geneva, the Mark Zero is a sleek and sexy Swiss sports GT car with a fully electric powertrain. Each of its rear wheels gets a dedicated 150-kilowatt synchronous electric motor, and there's an asynchronous 150-kW motor for the front axle too. The car's total weight is kept under 1,800 kg (3,970 lbs).

Conceived as a "modern classic," the Mark Zero is designed to be modular, such that motors and batteries can be upgraded as future technology improves the state of the game. It could also be released in the future with a range of different powertrains, from hybrids to hydrogen fuel cells to full internal combustion options.

Piëch has put handling at the forefront of its efforts, locating the heavy battery packs in the center tunnel and around the rear axle in such a way as to recreate the weight balance of a typical mid- or rear-engined sportscar. Getting the batteries up out of the floor area also lets the Mark Zero run nice, low sports driving seats.

The Mark Zero should be a thrilling sports car to drive, with over 600 horsepower and a weight distribution designed to mimic a mid or rear engined sports car
The Mark Zero should be a thrilling sports car to drive, with over 600 horsepower and a weight distribution designed to mimic a mid or rear engined sports car

Desten's remarkable extreme fast-charging battery pack

The car alone would be worthy of attention; it looks like a serious contender in the developing electric sportscar market. But this thing may end up being as much of a publicity stunt for its battery pack as anything else.

Piëch hasn't released any details on the size or capacity of its battery pack, other than an impressive 500 km/311 mile WLTP range – WLTP, or Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, representing a closer match to real driving conditions than the old NEDC test cycle.

But the team is making extraordinary claims about charging, saying the Mark Zero is capable of blast-charging from 0 to 80 percent of its full capacity in 4 minutes and 40 seconds. The battery is built by Desten Group, Limited, a Chinese/German operation based in Hong Kong.

Desten is cagey with details about its batteries, but claims "exceptionally high charge rates, 10C or higher," as well as power density in excess of 1600 watts per kilogram. The company says its cells can be fast charged and discharged 5,000 times before they drop to a capacity of 80 percent, suggesting excellent longevity particularly if the cars are charged slowly overnight most of the time.

Desten also claims that even under extreme rapid charge rates, its cells "heat up very little while charging," meaning that Piëch and other companies that may employ them can save significant weight by ditching any liquid cooling systems that may be needed for other batteries.

The Piëch Mark Zero concept: 500-kilometre range with ultra-fast charging
The Piëch Mark Zero concept: 500-kilometre range with ultra-fast charging

The range figures quoted by Piëch would suggest a battery capacity somewhere around the 100 kilowatt-hour area, so an 80 percent charge represents about 80 kilowatt-hours' worth of energy jammed into a battery in less than five minutes. That's kind of outrageous - Switzerland's ABB currently claims the title of world's fastest DC fast charger with a 350-kilowatt setup that can give you 120 miles' worth of range in 8 minutes. The Piëch press release is claiming 240 miles of charging in a touch under five minutes – a rate nearly three and a half times faster.

One shudders to think what kind of heavy duty charging equipment you'd need for such a job, let alone charging equipment that can be safely handled by Joe public. But Piëch and Desten claim that the "necessary charging infrastructure" will be supplied by Qingdao TGOOD Electric Co. Ltd, another Chinese/German company.

A healthy degree of skepticism is appropriate here until we see that kind of charging in action, but if these guys have genuinely nailed this kind of fast charge technology, the Piëch Mark Zero and the consumer cars that follow (two-seat, four-seat and sporty SUV models are in development) could be among the first EVs on the road that genuinely neutralize the fast-fueling advantage of gasoline cars.

Next stop: affordability. Hopefully it doesn't take too long.

Source: Piëch

21 comments
Bionic88
Cool car but could easily be mistaken for an Aston Martin. A premium car, especially one that's not well known, needs a look that sets itself apart. And that open mouth look is old. The battery tech sounds promising though.
Daishi
If you are sitting on a breakthrough in battery technology you don't need to build a new car company first as a method to sell batteries. The energy density in the Panasonic 18650 cells Tesla uses is about 250 wh/kg and they are claiming a shocking 1600. An 80% charge in 4 minutes (3.5x the world record) making very little heat. They are claiming 5000 cycles before hitting 80% capacity and I think Tesla is closer to about 2600 or 3000. Engineering is often about finding the right balance of trade offs. When someone claims to have a miracle technology that delivers a massive breakthrough in every measurable way they might as well be asking for money to build a perpetual energy machine. If Desten actually had this battery technology and could prove it they would be well on their way to being the worlds first Trillionaires. Instead of waiting for someone to get a new car company off the ground to sell the battery they would be selling to existing companies like BYD and Tesla.
andy68
I have no interest in the car, as it is not the kind of low cost family car that is needed to replace existing fossil-fuelled cars with EVS, to mitigate global warming. The battery is extremely interesting. There would be no point in a battery that charges in 5 mins, as, unlike liquid fuelled cars that require the driver to attend to the fuelling process, EVs are plugged in, and left to charge up on there own, either slowly, over night, or quickly, while the driver enjoys a rest stop. There is no point in any EV charging up faster than 15 minutes, as that is the minimum time anyone is likely to stop for a rest. Having said that, no current EV battery will charge to 80% in 15 minutes, and this suggests that this is an entirely new battery technology that would make all others obsolete. Now, that is extremely interesting.
guzmanchinky
Andy in my opinion you are incorrect. I want my vehicle refueled in 5 minutes or less. I do not take 15 minute fuel breaks 99% of the time I refuel. That said, once a battery exists that can be charged in 5 minutes, and I firmly believe this is just around the corner, you can kiss the internal combustion engine goodbye. Good riddance.
Aross
Assuming that all the data can be believed this would be very useful if deployed in cars that were affordable to the general public, not in richman's toys.
Sirmike
I fully agree with guzmanchinky. In my travels in the west of USA I only stop for gas and a quick pitstop. 10 mins max. More than 5 minutes at a pump starts to seriously back up queues of cars waiting. If these battery specs hold then we are finally on the way to having practical evs. Range is useful, but minimizing stopped time is critical, but if you spend 5 hours for 300 miles then waste an hour, you have dropped your average to only 50mph or 17% less. Would you want to want to extend your 8 hour workday by 17% to nearly 9 1/2 hours. Not me.
Simon Redford
The claims come out at >1MW charging rate (80*3600 kW.sec / 280 sec = 1082.6kW). If this is possible, which I doubt, then there must be considerable heating and poor turn-round efficiency.
paul314
Using those numbers, the charging rate is roughly a megawatt. Enough to briefly power a decent-sized data center. At 1000V, that would be 1000 amps going through a cable somewhere. Perhaps they have some kind of massively parallel system that recharges all the cells individually at some maximum rate. But just the infrastructure to get that many electrons in one place at the same time...
Daishi
@Aross I can't think of a single valid reason to assume the data can be believed. If I said the company I am working with achieved a 20% improvement over the state of the art energy density with a 15% reduction in charge time it's a believable claim. If I achieved 7 times the density, with 1/8th of the charge time generating 1/3 of the heat with twice the battery life and I needed a few billion to launch an automotive production line first before proving it I'd be laughed out of any sane room of people. Anyone who did have this technology would be looking to release test data proving the claims and commercialize it as fast as possible rather than wait for a 5+ year spin up of a niche boutique exotic car company to pair it with. That would be like saying I cured cancer but first I need funding for a privately owned airplane manufacturing company because I'll need a way to transport it around the world. It's a sharp looking car but the battery claims are abject nonsense. Even if they don't have the chemistry 100% yet providing some verification that their claims aren't completely fabricated would be very easy through independent testing.
Robert in Vancouver
Electric cars are just too expensive for the vast majority of people. Even the new Tesla for US$35,000 is wayyy out of reach for most people. In other currencies like CDN$, EUR, AU$, NZ$, Yen, etc. US$35,000 is a lot more than the annual after tax income for most people. For example, US$35,000 is about CDN$47,000.