This 10-minute quick-charge battery is developed for electric cars, with the black box on top containing a battery management system to control the unit. Credit: EC Power

Scientists are developing a new technique that charges EV batteries in just 10 minutes.

A design breakthrough allowed a 10-minute charging time for a typical electric vehicle battery. An article describing the record-breaking combination of shorter charging time and more energy gained for longer travel range was published on October 12 in the journal Nature.

“The need for smaller, faster-charging batteries is greater than ever,” said Chao-Yang Wang, lead author of the study. “There simply aren’t enough batteries and critical raw materials, especially those produced domestically, to meet the expected demand.” Wang is the William E. Diefenderfer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State.

The California Air Resources Board adopted a comprehensive plan in August to restrict and eventually ban the sale of gasoline vehicles in the state. This means that by 2035, the largest auto market in the United States will effectively phase out the internal combustion engine.

Wang explained that if new car sales are to shift to battery electric vehicles (EVs), they will need to overcome two major drawbacks. First, they are too slow to recharge. Second, they are too large to be effective and affordable. Instead of spending a few minutes at the gas station, some EVs can take a full day to recharge depending on the battery.

“Our fast charging technology works for most energy-dense batteries and will open up a new opportunity to reduce electric vehicle battery power from 150 to 50 kWh without causing drivers to worry about range,” said Wang, whose lab partnered with a startup based in State College EC power to develop the technology. “Smaller, faster-charging batteries will dramatically reduce battery costs and the use of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium, enabling mass adoption of affordable electric cars.”

The technology relies on internal thermal modulation, an active method of temperature control, to demand the best possible performance from the battery, Wang explained. Batteries work most efficiently when they are hot, but not too hot. Maintaining the correct battery temperature at all times is a major challenge for battery engineers. Historically, they have relied on external, bulky heating and cooling systems to regulate the temperature of batteries, which are slow to respond and waste a lot of energy, Wang said.

Wang and his team decided instead to regulate the temperature from inside the battery. The researchers developed a new battery structure that adds an ultra-thin nickel foil as a fourth component in addition to the anode, electrolyte and cathode. Acting as an incentive, the nickel foil self-regulates the battery’s temperature and reactivity, enabling 10-minute fast charging of almost any EV battery, Wang explained.

“True fast-charging batteries would have an immediate effect,” the researchers wrote. “Since there are not enough raw minerals to replace every internal combustion engine car with a 150kWh-equipped electric car, fast charging is imperative for electric cars to become mainstream.”

The research partner, EC Power, is working to manufacture and commercialize the fast-charging battery for an affordable and sustainable future of vehicle electrification, Wang said.

Reference: “Fast Charging of Energy-Dense Li-Ion Batteries” by Chao-Yang Wang, Teng Liu, Xiao-Guang Yang, Shanhai Ge, Nathaniel V. Stanley, Eric S. Rountree, Yongjun Leng, and Brian D. McCarthy, 12 October 2022, Nature.
DOI: 10.1038/s41586-022-05281-0

The other co-authors of the study are Teng Liu, Xiao-Guang Yang, Shanhai Ge and Yongjun Leng of Penn State and Nathaniel Stanley, Eric Rountree and Brian McCarthy of EC Power.

The work was supported by the US Department of Energy, the US Department of Defense, the US Air Force and the William E. Diefenderfer Foundation.

Battery Tech Breakthrough: 10-Minute Charge Time Paves Way for Mass Adoption of Affordable Electric Car

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