If a Tesla Model S electric car can get a 50% battery recharge in 20 minutes at a supercharging station ... shouldn’t it be possible to do the same on a BlackBerry?  That’s what I’d like to discuss here.

Over the last few months I’ve developed what my wife lovingly refers to as unhealthy obsession with Tesla Motors and their Model S electric car.  You know the one, right?  It starts at $69,900, can easily get to about a hundred grand with all the options, and has a driving range of 300 miles?  Well, to eliminate what is known as “range anxiety”, they’ve come up with this amazingly fast “Supercharger” technology that pumps 120 kW into the car’s lithium ion cells, which can give the car a 50% charge in 20 minutes.

To put this in perspective, a Tesla supercharger pumps 60x as much power into the car’s battery as compared to the average electrical consumption of a standard family home at any point in time (120 kW versus 2 kW).  To get the charging speed they’ve designed the car such that power is pumped straight into the battery.  It doesn’t run through rectifiers or other charging circuitry first.

Why can’t we supercharge our BlackBerrys and other devices?

Naturally, this got me to thinking about mobile phones.  Why can’t we supercharge our BlackBerrys and other devices?  Well, according to Qualcomm we can.  But I don’t like their definition.  Qualcomm has a technology called Quick Charge 2.0, which is an enhanced version of the original Quick Charge 1.0.  It claims to charge devices 75% faster than normal.  The charging technology is baked into Snapdragon 800 processors.

75% faster? I’m not too impressed.  Let’s compare Qualcomm’s claim to what Tesla delivers.  A Telsa car charges at home, on a high amp circuit (40A) with about 10 kW of power.  Remember Volts x Amps = Watts ... basic high school physics.  Superchargers pump out 12x more power than this, so they charge 1100% faster than a home setup.  Compared to this, Qualcomm’s “75% faster” claim sounds ridiculously slow.

Remember a phone battery is pretty small.  Even the BlackBerry Q10 has a 2100 mAH battery.  To convert this into kWh we need to multiply by voltage, which Converting this to kWh (capacity). As I understand it, phone batteries operate at about 4V (no need to point out the obvious, folks .. I know USB charging is at 5V).  This puts a Q10 battery at 8.4 Watt hours, whereas a Tesla large battery is 85 kilo Watt hours (10,000x bigger)

Continuing with the math, if a Tesla battery is 10,000x bigger than a Q10 battery, and the Tesla Supercharger pumps out 120kW then it means a cell phone Supercharger should need about 12 Watts.  A regular incandescent bulb is 60 Watts, so we’re talking a puny amount of power here.  But the power needs to go straight into the battery, it can’t be shunted through a bunch of circuitry first.

I’m by no means an expert on this topic, but it seems to me that it makes zero sense to run “Quick Charge” technology inside the processor of a phone.  That sounds about as logical as Tesla running power through its electric motors first, before sending the power to the battery. 

I’d love to see BlackBerry come up with a way to give me a full charge in a fraction of the time it takes to charge my phone right now.  I think it would be a great marketing feature, and it would be really useful to supercharge my phone when I realize the battery is almost dead and I’ve got to go out in 10 minutes.

I’d love to see BlackBerry come up with a way to give me a full charge in a fraction of the time it takes to charge my phone right now

There would be some extra expense, but I don’t think it would be much.  The phone would need to be designed such that power could go directly into the battery pack, and the charger would need some electronics to do a handshake with the battery so it knows how much juice to pump into it.  But at 12 Watts of power output?  This seems like a no brainer to me.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m missing something here.  But I’d love to see BlackBerry do this.

Why BlackBerry?  Remember these guys are the ones who invented USB charging.  They actually own the patent on charging a battery via USB.  They started doing this around the turn of the millennium.  At the time this was a highly novel way to charge a phone.  Today everyone (except Apple) has copied the idea.  I’m still annoyed that BlackBerry hasn’t been more aggressive in asserting this patent. It seems they should be collecting a nice royalty from every vendor out there.  But they’re the friendly Canadian-style company and it isn’t their way. Or maybe that can change with a new Chief Legal Officer at the helm?

I’d like to see BlackBerry be the first company to come up with a real supercharger for a phone, not rely on some watered-down version that Qualcomm came up with.  I’d like to see BlackBerry become the Tesla of the smartphone market, in this regard.

Who’s with me?  And for you BlackBerry power engineers - are you up to the challenge?