Battery technology has finally reached the point that you can drive an electric vehicle without constant range anxiety, but you still have to plan ahead for charging. Even Teslas, which charge faster than other EVs, need almost an hour to fill up completely at a SuperCharger. Researchers from Penn State University say it may be possible to design electric vehicle batteries that charge in as little as 10 minutes. The key, apparently, is to turn up the heat.
The standard set by the researchers for a sufficiently fast battery is 200 miles of range per 10 minutes of charging. That’s actually possible without any fancy new technology… as long as you don’t mind the battery deteriorating after a handful of charge cycles. The challenge is to create a high-capacity battery that can charge quickly and maintain its functionality for 2,500 cycles or more.
When batteries charge too quickly, they develop “battery plaque,” also known as solid-electrolyte-interphase (SEI) growth. This lithium metal plating on the electrodes reduces the battery’s capacity. The system described in the new study uses asymmetric charging — the battery is heated during charging and then cools when storing the charge. The goal is to heat the cells just past the point where lithium plating can form.
The team added thin nickel foil to a battery’s internal structure, allowing it to absorb the heat from rapid charging and transfer the heat into the battery itself. Interestingly, this approach also means the battery needs less cooling after recharging because there’s less time for the heat to build up. That also reduces wear from excessive heat on other components in the battery. It would require new charging stations that can output 400 kilowatts of power in just a few minutes, though.
The test batteries were charged with the internal temperature calibrated to 40, 49, and 60 degrees Celsius. A control battery was maintained at 20 degrees Celsius. The 60-degree electrode lasted through 2,500 cycles of super-fast charging without accumulating the plaque that would hamper cooler cells. With internal heating, the battery would also work equally well no matter the climate, according to coauthor Xiao-Guang Yang.
Yang says the next step is to see if they can push the charging speed time to just five minutes. That would put it in the same ballpark as refilling a gasoline car.
Top image credit: Yang Wang Group
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