Electric Car Charging In 5 Minutes?
That’s The Claim, And BP Backs It.
Range anxiety for electric car users is receding as batteries become bigger and more powerful, and according to Israel’s StoreDot, worries about wasting hours waiting to refill the tank could be about to go too.
StoreDot, (https://www.store-dot.com/) with help from its partner oil giant British Petroleum, says it is developing battery technology which will allow a full recharge in 5 minutes, just like internal combustion engined car drivers’ can.
It sees an electric car future where Teslas and Nissan Leafs and Renault Zoes can drive into an electric filling station, select from perhaps 10 different recharging stations, plug-in, fill up, and be gone in just over 5 minutes. Just like you would with a gasoline car or SUV.
But before you get too excited and rush to your nearest electric car dealer to plonk down your hard-earned, bear in mind StoreDot has only proven the principle on a little electric scooter and has yet to transfer it to a regular car. If electric cars are going to be able fast charge on mass, that means huge investments in the charging infrastructure, and not least, the power of national electricity grids to satisfy this demand without crashing the network.
And some experts fear lithium-ion batteries, especially larger ones, have a worrying tendency to burst into flames.
StoreDot said it has demonstrated the technology on an electric scooter and is working on scaling it up. It expects to demonstrate the ability to recharge fast on an electric car by the end of this year or early in 2021, and manufacturers like Volkswagen or Mercedes should be able to incorporate them in the electric cars they sell to the public by 2023.
StoreDot said, according to conventional wisdom, it is not possible to recharge so quickly because of the problem of overheating, known as plating or metalization. The chemistry of the battery has to be changed to avoid this.
“Our focus is to deliver the missing piece in the ecosystem, the chemistry in the battery cell that can support 5 minute recharging. We are working on the chemistry of the battery. We are still using lithium-ion batteries, but replacing the graphite material with silicon. This enables the fast charging without overheating. The first generation has been done and demonstrated via the scooter. Now we need a large one for electric vehicles that can go about 300 kilometers (184 miles), StoreDot CEO Doron Myersdorf said in a telephone interview.
“We need to reduce the cost to match graphite-based batteries at around $100 per kWh that is standard for the industry today. All the components are standard. The battery will be compatible with cars like VW and Mercedes and we need to demonstrate it works. We will do that by the end of 2020 or early 2021. We’ve already been granted about 50 patents for our technology and our goal is to let all the carmakers use it,” Myersdorf said.
Big grid spending required
If electric cars are going to be able to charge on mass so quickly, this also implies huge investments to upgrade the network, and the electricity grid.
“This is why it is very important to ally with our partner BP and the British government in upgrading the grid particularly at strategic locations around London,” Myersdorf said.
StoreDot plans to start in London, but quickly expand it right across Europe.
“You will have, say, 10 slots where cars can charge in 5 minutes and that requires upgrading from the grid, and only major players like BP can influence the government on this. Then we plan a Europe-wide venture. It’s easier for us to start in the U.K. because of all the support required from various partners, like BP’s ChargeMaster and the government,” Myersdorf said.
BP’s ChargeMaster has about 7,000 electric car charging points across Britain, including so-called ultra-fast 150 kW chargers.
StoreDot’s plan has attracted an investment of $130 million from BP, Mercedes parent Daimler, TDK of Japan, and Samsung of Korea, and has spent about half of that so far.
If you think this sounds all a bit too unlikely, with far too many hostages to fortune for comfort, there is another hurdle to jump; the possibility of dangers to safety,
Donald Sadoway, Professor of Materials Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is also working on improving the performance of batteries for electric cars, but worries about lithium-ion, which he says can pose a fire risk especially in scaled-up versions.
“I take a dim view of lithium-ion chemistry in large format owing to its ability to catch fire – these cars are not crashworthy. Rapid charging is desirable but safety is more so,” Sadoway said.
“I’m working on an aluminum-sulfur battery. It would be cheaper at scale and safer because it is incapable of burning. I have early results that indicate rapid charging,” he said.
StoreDot claims, if attainable, would certainly shakeup the world of electric cars and remove two of the biggest problems which the public worries about – range and charging anxiety. If you could recharge your electric car in the same time as it takes for a regular gasoline powered one, range anxiety would disappear too. But it’s all very well recharging an electric scooter in 5 minutes. There’s a huge gap to be filled to recreate this on a car or SUV. And any safety fears must be addressed.
StoreDot’s Myersdorf exudes confidence, but does make one concession to those thinking the 5 minute claim is really a bit too much, surely a bridge too far.
“When the first super-charger station is opened by BP, it might be good idea to scale things back a bit to relax pressure on the local grid, so we would only use half the power our technology can handle and offer a full charge closer to 10 minutes,” Myersdorf said.