In the debate between owning an electric car and a fossil fuel-powered car, almost all the time, the discussion always comes to an end with one man saying, “When I can fill up in five minutes as I do currently, I’ll consider an electric car.”
Seems far-fetched, isn’t it? However, we have some good news – if some American researchers are to be believed, they have worked out a way to charge a lithium-ion EV battery from nearly dead to 90 per cent in just 10 minutes. And more importantly, without causing any of the damage that would usually occur during such a task.
As per a report in Top Gear, researchers have used machine learning, training an AI to predict how and when EV batteries would eventually fail and then find the optimal way to rapidly charge without causing the damage that would lead to those failures. However, the team tested its results on real batteries and managed to charge a near-flat battery to 90 per cent in just 10 minutes.
But then another question pops up. Why can’t we just increase the power of a regular charger to get the same result? Because, charging an EV battery too quickly can result in lithium being electroplated onto the anode, rather than filing itself away in the graphite structure in a process known as intercalation. That intercalation bit is the key to the working of lithium-ion batteries, so any deviation from the norm is obviously going to have serious effects.
Losing lithium ions to anode plating means losing battery capacity, while enough plated lithium can cause short circuits and complete battery failure, quoted the Top Gear report.
Perhaps that is why we have seen companies like Porsche and Hyundai move to 800-volt architecture (more volts mean less current for a given wattage, which means less heat generated through resistance and less chance for damage), and why chargers have to slow down when the battery is close to fully charged – or discharged.
But by optimising the way vehicles are charged on an individual basis – rather than the ‘better safe than sorry’ methods we currently use – a huge hurdle to EV ownership is effectively removed, without any change to the battery construction or chemistry.
In the meantime, researchers just want to use what they (and the machine) have learned in the experiment to design new batteries optimised for fast charging, as well as battery control units that can tell charging stations how to recharge as quickly as possible without damaging the battery.
And if this technology gets implemented by the manufacturers in the near future, we can surely see a more rapid migration from ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) to EVs.