Electric vehicles are gaining popularity due to their vital role in the energy transition. To ensure that electric vehicles continue to play a crucial role in decarbonization, their adoption must continue to rise. Slow battery recharging rates constitute one of the primary challenges to the widespread adoption of electric vehicles; thus, researchers are attempting to solve this barrier.

Now, Penn State researchers have made a breakthrough in the design of electric car batteries that enables a ten-minute charge time for a conventional electric car battery. The researchers found a way to charge the batteries faster and give them more power so they could travel farther.

The New Battery System

The technique, which was created by Wang’s lab with the State College-based startup EC Power, is dependent on thermal modulation. This is an active way of regulating temperature that requires optimal performance from the electric vehicle’s battery. Batteries must be maintained at a steady, high temperature for optimal performance. This, however, has proven to be difficult for battery engineers. Wang added that earlier, a large piece of external heating and cooling equipment was used to regulate the temperature of a battery. But they waste a lot of energy and react slowly.

The researchers opted to change this and adjust the battery’s temperature from within. To do this, scientists created a unique battery construction that included an ultrathin nickel foil in addition to the anode, electrolyte, and cathode. Wang added that the nickel foil served as a stimulant and was able to regulate the temperature and reactivity of the battery, allowing for a rapid ten-minute charging time for any electric car battery.

“True fast-charging batteries would have an immediate impact,” stated the researchers. “Since there are not enough raw materials to replace every internal combustion engine vehicle with a 150 kWh-capable electric vehicle, quick charging is essential for the widespread adoption of EVs.”

Why is faster battery charging for electric vehicles important?

In August of this year, the Air Resources Board of California authorized a comprehensive plan to restrict and eventually ban the sale of gasoline-powered vehicles in the state. In addition, the largest vehicle market in the United States intends to phase out the internal combustion engine by 2035.

To ensure a change in automobile sales toward battery-powered electric vehicles, two of their key disadvantages must be eliminated. First, they recharge too slowly, and second, they are too large to be cost-effective and efficient. Currently, some electric car batteries require an entire day to recharge, a stark contrast to the few minutes required at a gas station.

Chao-Yang Wang, William E. Diefenderfer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State and primary author of the study, stated, “The demand for smaller, faster-charging batteries is greater than ever. There are simply insufficient batteries and essential raw materials, especially locally produced materials, to meet anticipated demand. Our fast-charging technique is compatible with the majority of energy-dense batteries and will enable the reduction of electric car battery capacity from 150 to 50 kWh without inducing range anxiety in drivers. The smaller, faster-charging batteries will cut the cost of batteries and the use of important raw materials like cobalt, graphite, and lithium by a huge amount. This will make it possible for more people to buy affordable electric cars.” 

EC Power, a study partner, is attempting to develop and commercialize the fast-charging battery in order to ensure that the EV revolution is both affordable and sustainable.

Penn State’s Teng Liu, Xiao-Guang Yang, Shanhai Ge, and Yongjun Leng, as well as EC Power’s Nathaniel Stanley, Eric Rountree, and Brian McCarthy, are co-authors of the paper. The article titled, ‘Fast charging of energy-dense lithium-ion batteries,’ was published in Nature.