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MIT fast-charge batteries promise quicker EVs

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  March 12, 2009 12:36 PM

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MIT-batteries-609.jpg(Globe Graphic)

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have made a fast-charge lithium-ion battery that could potentially be used to recharge an electric car in as little as five minutes, the Boston Globe reported today.

A "crystalized coating" over the electrodes allows the lithium ions to move more readily and lets the battery discharge about 100 times faster than current batteries, according to MIT studies. Such a torrent could cause explosive acceleration similar to nitrous oxide, but with the added benefit of "refilling" just as fast from an electrical outlet. While the technology is at least several years away, performance automakers will likely make an early jump on it (Tesla and Porsche tuner RUF, which introduced an electric 911 in Geneva, spring to mind).

As at least one reader pointed out, the potential for battery failure due to overheating and exploding is a serious concern for fast-charge batteries, as is the reduced overall life cycle. The Tesla Roadster, which uses 6,831 lithium-ion batteries on its speedy Roadster, has a performance mode that utilizes higher discharge rates, and another that maximizes durability and mileage. In the near future, there will be a battery that does both.

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14 comments so far...
  1. The point about the thermal problems with these batteries has been addressed with the development of a new barrier by Exxon/Mobil which has greatly increased flow-through and increased thermal breakdown temperature. Google it for info.

    Posted by Anonymous March 12, 09 07:11 PM
  1. This is wonderful as great leaps and bounds in alternative fueled technology cannot be achieved without a radically better battery technology.
    I'm not so sure however that a faster battery is needed more than a battery with higher density. We need a battery than can store more change in a smaller package versus a battery that pumps out more power in a shorter time.
    It is certainly a step in the right direction, so good for them.

    Posted by SkidPalace March 13, 09 08:41 AM
  1. Perhaps the release of energy is not the desired outcome, although the transition to electric cars would be faster and safer if the cars could accelerate as fast or faster than combustion engines. Additionally if the charge is taken faster then having a solar car is more realistic with the technologies being developed; cars would gain enough charge on the go.

    Posted by justme March 13, 09 09:46 AM
  1. We have a slight problem here. Consider the battery bank in the current electric NEV convert. It runs about 18 KWH in capacity. To charge that in an hour means you have to pump 18 KW into it. To charge it in 1/2 an hour means 36 KW. To charge it in 15 min requires 72 KW. To charge it in 7.5 min means 144 KW. To charge it in the amount of time you normally would spend at a gas pump means 288 KW. That is 2400 amps at 120V or 1200 amps at 240 volts assuming no losses. You will get around 40 miles out of that charge. Nice batteries. They will reduce the weight of the NEV type cars, and all the rest. But fast charging time runs up against the ability to pump energy into the battery from the grid.

    Posted by Dr. William Ledsham March 13, 09 12:34 PM
  1. This is a very important development in the development and marketing of electronic ars, but the larger problem still exists... electricity must be generated by primarily fossil fuels to create the electricity that will someday (hopefully soon) be used to charge the batteries and power our homes. Until regulations are changed and technology is in place and investment (perhaps even by the feds) is available to develop CLEAN alternatives such as solar panels across 100's of squre miles in our deserts and wind turbines and tidal dams and and low dams (hidden) on our rivers, we'll still pollute and import oil. ps. Any breakthrough on the storage of alterntive sources of electric generation so we can close ALL fossil fuel generating plants?!

    Posted by Otis March 13, 09 12:40 PM
  1. Follow-up to Comment 4:
    Power from the grid comes from mostly fossil fuels. Efficiency of power production and delivery is less than 50 percent. So you're talking about a coal-natural gas-oil fired car, where more than 50% of the energy source is lost in production and delivery, before charging the car. Sorry, Obama-tons! (However, net pollution is supposedly reduced with electric vehicles because the power plant emits less than the sum of emissions from gasoline engines replaced by electric cars.)

    Posted by BK March 13, 09 04:35 PM
  1. my question continues to be what happens to these batteries when they finally die out at 100,000 + miles? Are they bio-degradable, or do they become part of the garbarge what we save in CO2 lost when the battery becomes part of the permanent garbarge problem?

    Posted by Rick March 13, 09 07:29 PM
  1. Battery overheating to the extent of danger is NOT a concern with anything other than the obsolete first gen li ions (like those used by Tesla, and only Tesla).
    These batteries achieve two (but not all four) desired characterisitcs of a battery for cars. 1) fast recharging provides the physical CAPABILITY to make a practical battery-only electric (which cannot be achieved today); 2) these batteries provide for far greater OUTPUT (or power, i.e. horsepower) for a given size/price, which can allow for electrification of more applications (i.e. commercial) where power is
    of great importance. But 3) the costs will not decrease due to the new technology 4) the CAPACITY (i.e. the amount of electricity stored by the battery - the range of
    the EV will not increase an electric car will remain unchanged)

    Posted by kerrry bradshaw March 14, 09 01:41 PM
  1. BK post #6,

    When you're coming from a 25% efficient gas powered engine moving to a 50% efficient power source with a 90% efficient electric motor, still gives you better overall efficiency for burning the same fossil fuels. Whats the problem?

    Oh yeah, and what does Obama have to do with this? Or is everything a red/blue thing to you?

    Posted by itscalledprogress March 14, 09 01:43 PM
  1. Not only for cars, the bigger picture and the biggest problem facing the energy industry is storage of energy. Oil, coal and batteries represent three forms of energy storage. With the increasing production of energy from intermittent sources (e.g. wind and solar), if we can solve the energy storage problem, we will be much farther along in energy independence.

    Posted by tom March 15, 09 09:26 AM
  1. If we could effectively store energy even with our fossil fuel plants, we would could reduce carbon emissions simply by being able to run our plants more efficiently. Right now, we have to deal with peak demands that are mostly satisfied by burning more coal.

    Coal is going to be a problem. There's a great deal of it, so it's cheap, and a lot is located in countries like China that desperately need to improve the standard of living of their citizens. Whether we like it or not, they WILL use the coal.

    What we need to do is find some way to allow the use of coal without the release of all the carbon. I don't know what shape this technology will have, but I can't see us succeeding at getting things under control without it. At least with Oil, diminishing supplies will help force change to alternative fuels, but coal could allow us to continue our foolish march to extinction for quite a long time.

    The idea of pumping CO2 deep underground, capping the wells and forgetting about it is suicidal. No one can predict the stability of such a storage solution. If the CO2 comes in contact with ground water, not only will the CO2 start to seep out into the atmosphere, but it will make the water slightly acidic, eating away at the rock around the CO2 deposit and speeding the process.

    What we need is a lot more money in basic research and we need to encourage our children to go into science.

    Posted by Ray Benjamin March 16, 09 06:47 AM
  1. Nuclear fricken power. Even the French do it. Its absolutely ridicolous and downright criminal (thankyou greenies) that their hasnt been a nuclear power plant built in this country for decades.

    Posted by troop March 16, 09 04:56 PM
  1. Widespread use of electric cars and trucks will require a power grid that can handle the huge power demands of fast charging plus a large increase in generating capacity. The US currently has a generating capacity of approx 1 million megawatts. This would probably have to double at least. We cannot do this with fossil fuels alone. The low density of solar and wind will never do it either. The only option is a ten times increase in nuclear and this will take years. The waste problem could be minimized by utilizing fuel reprocessing as in France.

    Posted by SamP April 25, 09 06:14 PM
  1. Dear "Anonymous". I really must point-out that the time taken to charge a solar powered car, is likely to be defined - for many years to come - by the strength of Sunshine, and area and conversion-efficiency of the PV collector which it carries.
    For the forseeable future these factors will determine the time taken - not the speed at which the battery will charge if connected to a big enough energy source !
    The charging-up time is of course dependant upon the power of the charger in this situation, (since a car cannot carry endless square metres of Solar panels), and will increase as the storage capacity (Joules) of batteries is increased with the seemingly inexorable march of the technologies
    It's hard to believe that this has to be explained. Thanks for the pain !
    . What is required for the Solar-powered car, is a higher "energy per kgm rating" as possible, plus, of course, a high possible discharge rate if the vehicle is ever going to be able to "accelerate well", or go up hills at a tolerable speed.
    Two place that quick-chargeable batteries are Really required, is in domestic Wind-energy schemes, so that short gales can be "stored" - and for cars that are charged-up at "fuel stations" in the future.

    Posted by G. Gilbert Vaughan June 23, 09 02:48 PM

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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
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AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
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