Big battery breakthrough could add fast charging to cheap electric cars

A new study has found that adding a thin sheet of nickel to existing electric vehicle (EV) batteries could exponentially boost their charging speeds.

Researchers from the Pennsylvania State University partnered with startup company EC Power to address two significant challenges to EV adoption — range anxiety and cost.

Some of the latest high-end EVs have super fast charging capabilities and pack large batteries for maximum range.

However, these are prohibitively expensive and won’t help stimulate mass adoption.

For example, the fastest-charging EV currently on the market is the Lucid Air, which starts at $90,000 (R1.64 million).

During hands-on testing, Inside EVs added 208 miles (334km) of range to the car’s 118kWh battery in 12 minutes.

More affordable EVs generally feature smaller batteries, but consumers fear these will run out of range before reaching the next charging point.

One example is the Chevy Bolt EV, which sells for $25,600 in the US (R466,790, excl. taxes).

It packs a 66kWh battery to which only 100 miles (161km) of range can be added for every 30 minutes of charging.

The researchers believe their technology enables smaller, faster-charging batteries to be deployed for mass adoption of affordable electric cars.

For their testing, the research team used a lithium-ion battery that provided 560km on a single full charge.

When they introduced an ultrathin nickel foil sheet to its interior, they were able to charge the battery to 70% in 11 minutes, and 75% in 12 minutes. That added between 400-440km of range.

Senior author Chao-Yang Wang explained that this meant a typical stop for a bathroom break would be more than long enough to add enough juice to continue on a long road trip.

The researchers explained the nickel foil helped to distribute heat across the battery pack more quickly, allowing for faster energy capture.

“Conventional lithium-ion batteries are developed for man-portable electronics — as such, scientists and developers are very afraid of heat,” Wang said. “We went against this traditional mindset.”

Despite the additional heat, the researchers found that their lithium-ion batteries remained stable and safe.

The tested battery lasted for over 900 cycles, charged at up to 75%, providing the equivalent of 402,000km of range.

The researchers and EC Power are currently developing the system for a commercial rollout.

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Big battery breakthrough could add fast charging to cheap electric cars