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Enhanced Electric Vehicle Charging

Written by Swagato Chakravorty
Posted August 23, 2012

One of the biggest challenges when advocating electric vehicles is the problem of charging time. Currently, EVs take at least several hours to achieve a full charge. However, recent developments at Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology could vanquish that problem by reducing charging time to mere minutes.

In tests, researchers stated that their innovations allow lithium-ion batteries to recharge 30 to 120 times faster than is currently possible. The technology uses cathode material, conventional lithium manganese oxide (LMO), that’s soaked completely in a graphite solution. The now-carbonized LMO develops a network of conductive trace points which run throughout the cathode material; this permits more of the battery’s area to recharge simultaneously. In contrast, current models of batteries begin charging at one point and the charge then seeps inward.

Of course, this is just the first stage, as a complete battery unit would also include an anode and an electrolyte in addition to cathode material. Currently, car chargers can only sustain a 3.3 kilowatt or 6.6 kilowatt charge rate. In order to maximize the new technology’s benefit, charging rates would basically jump up to 198 to 792 kilowatts.

Tesla Motors' (NASDAQ: TSLA) proprietary SuperCharger system comes close, using a 90 kilowatt charge rate, which allows it to offer 300 miles per hour charged. In contrast, the new technology’s lower limit (198 kilowatt) would provide for 600 miles per hour of charging, while 792 kilowatts means the car would be gaining 2100 miles per hour charged!

Before we get excited, though, it needs to be highlighted that such demands as a 198-792 kilowatt charge rate extraordinarily high. The power needed for sustaining that would be comparable to that of a full office building’s, rather than that of a residence. It would function best with a large grid energy storage system so that it can handle the immense loads without harming the actual grid.

However, the mere prospect of such a development is surely a sign that the electric vehicle sector can expect some very interesting times ahead.

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