Researchers from Cornell University have managed to develop an electric vehicle (EV) battery that can fully charge in less than 5 minutes. The discovery and study was published in the Joule journal on 16 January and the team hopes it will help reduce the cost of EVs.
One of the mane issues impeding the faster adoption of electric vehicles is what the researchers called “range anxiety”. Currently, it takes a few hours for an EV battery to fully charge, which makes them less than ideal for long journeys, as one would have to stop every few hundred kilometres and wait too long for charging, thus greatly increasing travel times.
“Range anxiety is a greater barrier to electrification in transportation than any of the other barriers, like cost and capability of batteries, and we have identified a pathway to eliminate it using rational electrode designs”, said Lynden Archer, Professor of Engineering and dean of Cornell Engineering, who oversaw the project. “If you can charge an EV battery in five minutes, I mean, gosh, you don’t need to have a battery that’s big enough for a 300-mile range. You can settle for less, which could reduce the cost of EVs, enabling wider adoption.”
Besides alleviating the stress of having to wait out for charging, which can also lead long queues when not enough stations are available, the new batteries can also lead to a reduction in manufacturing costs, as EVs could then run with smaller batteries.
Our goal was to create battery electrode designs that charge and discharge in ways that align with daily routine.Shuo Jin, doctoral student at Cornell University
“In practical terms, we desire our electronic devices to charge quickly and operate for extended periods. To achieve this, we have identified a unique indium anode material that can be effectively paired with various cathode materials to create a battery that charges rapidly and discharges slowly”, explained the study’s lead author, Shuo Jin, a doctoral student in chemical and biomolecular engineering.
The team identified indium as a material that can be added in lithium-ion batteries to speed up the charging process. It works by lowering the “Damköhler number” of the reactions taking place inside the battery. The Damköhler number measures the rate at which chemical reactions occur, relative to the rate at which material is transported to the reaction site. Using indium as an anode lowered the battery’s Damköhler number, thus enabling fast-charging.
“The key innovation is we’ve discovered a design principle that allows metal ions at a battery anode to freely move around, find the right configuration and only then participate in the charge storage reaction,” Archer said. “The end result is that in every charging cycle, the electrode is in a stable morphological state. It is precisely what gives our new fast-charging batteries the ability to repeatedly charge and discharge over thousands of cycles.”
Although the new batteries, combined with wireless charging, could revolutionise the EV market, the researchers cautioned that their prototype is only experimental and not very practical. Indium is a heavy material and its fast-charging advantages would be countered by its own weight.
However, as with any research, it provides a starting point. Archer suggested that the discovery could be used for computational chemistry modelling, perhaps using generative AI tools, to learn what other lightweight materials chemistries might achieve the same intrinsically low Damköhler numbers. The Professor explained that metal alloys that have not yet been discovered could have the same characteristics as indium and AI modelling might lead to the next breakthrough.