An electric vehicle battery that charges in just five minutes is now commercially ready—so long as EV charging systems are up to the task, say its inventors. And BP’s Advanced Mobility division is keen to make that happen.
Developed by Israeli-based StoreDot and manufactured by China’s Eve Energy, the super-fast-charging lithium-ion battery just saw its first run of 1,000 units roll off the production line, The Guardian writes in an exclusive report.
“We are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line,” said StoreDot CEO Doron Myersdorf. “This demonstrates it is feasible and it’s commercially ready.”
What StoreDot has accomplished is a major chemical rewrite of the inner workings of a lithium-ion battery. In existing Li-ions, the electrode into which the lithium ions are pushed to store a charge (the anode) is made of graphite, a composition that works well at standard charging rates.
Those previously seeking a charge rate that would make EV ownership more attractive had been stymied by the fact that when lithium ions are pushed more rapidly into graphite, a kind of ionic traffic jam occurs that causes them to “plate” into a metal—which, in turn, short circuits the battery.
The StoreDot battery “replaces graphite with semiconductor nanoparticles into which ions can pass more quickly and easily,” explains The Guardian. While these nanoparticles are currently made of dauntingly expensive germanium, StoreDot plans to roll out prototypes that use much cheaper silicon later this year. That will put the cost of the new battery on par with the standard Li-ion type, Myersdorf told the UK news outlet.
Digging into the technology, Ars Technica notes that StoreDot is keeping critical components (like the composition of the cathode) under wraps as “proprietary compounds,” doubtless because the holy grail of a fast-charging lithium battery is being hotly pursued by its competitors, including Tesla.
Having already demonstrated its battery’s “extreme fast-charging” capability in small machines like phones and scooters, StoreDot will be using its first run of hot-off-the-production-line samples to wow carmakers and others in the transport sector.
Watching with particular interest, notes The Guardian, will be BP—or, more strictly, the oil major’s Advanced Mobility division. While Daimler, Samsung, and TDK have likewise invested in StoreDot, promotional video available on Ars Technica shows BP riding shotgun, likely with an eye to its own bottom line.
But the battery is just one part of the puzzle. “The bottleneck to extra-fast charging is no longer the battery,” Myersdorf told The Guardian. The next challenge is upgrading charging stations and grids to be equal to the task. Solving that problem will be first on the list for BP.
“BP has 18,200 forecourts and they understand that, 10 years from now, all these stations will be obsolete, if they don’t repurpose them for charging—batteries are the new oil,” said Myersdorf.
That innovation could go some way to ease range anxiety in prospective purchasers, but not in the way one would expect. Rather than extending the range, Ars Technica says, StoreDot is shortening the time it takes to top up the battery.
“Put differently, the bet is that people would rather add 300 kilometres to the range of their car in five minutes than have a car with a 600-kilomotre range that takes an hour to fully charge,” the publication explains.
The batteries could be available to the pubic within three years, reports The Guardian, citing Chao-Yang Wang of the Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center at Pennsylvania State University. They could also bring down the cost of the EVs themselves, Wang added, by allowing manufacturers to design around a smaller battery.
“Finally we are achieving parity with gasoline vehicles in both cost and convenience. We have the technology for $25,000 electric cars that race like luxury sport cars, have 10-minute rechargeability, and are safer than any currently on the market,” said Wang.
Meanwhile, PVBuzz Media reports that U.S. Department of Energy researchers have figured out how to use x-rays to precisely measure just how many ions move through a battery. The breakthrough, published recently in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, could open the door to using other battery chemistries—relying on calcium or zinc—with the ultimate goal of producing batteries with designs that align better with their use.
“If we want to create high-energy, fast, safe, long-lasting batteries, we need to know more about ion motion,” said study co-author Venkat Srinivasan. “We need to understand more about what happens inside a battery, and use that knowledge to design new materials from the bottom up.”