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Power Transportation Hardware Technology

Experimental Batteries Charge In Minutes 335

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the but-i-want-it-now dept.
Zothecula writes "Of all the criticisms of electric vehicles, probably the most commonly-heard is that their batteries take too long to recharge – after all, limited range wouldn't be such a big deal if the cars could be juiced up while out and about, in just a few minutes. Well, while no one is promising anything, new batteries developed at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign do indeed look like they might be a step very much in the right direction. They are said to offer all the advantages of capacitors and batteries, in one unit."
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Experimental Batteries Charge In Minutes

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:05AM (#35573158)

    Considering the hassle I had just getting a 220-volt outlet to power my dryer installed at my house, I'd hate to think what the electrician is going to say when I tell him I want an outlet that can deliver enough power to drive my car 100 miles--and deliver it in just a few minutes. Poor bastard is going to have a heart attack.

    I apologize in advance for my lack of electrical knowledge. But would anything resembling modern standard household wiring even be able to handle that?

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      I apologize in advance for my lack of electrical knowledge. But would anything resembling modern standard household wiring even be able to handle that?

      Nothing resembling modern standard industrial wiring will handle that. On the other hand, you could have a flywheel or another type of battery bank (a very broad, shallow one, if you catch my drift - lots of cells) in your house that charged only at night or from altpower and which charged your car whenever you liked. Sounds expensive to me, too. Flywheels are probably the logical choice. You bury them to prevent runaways in the case of failure. You float them on maglev bearings to make them efficient. The

      • by slim (1652) <john&hartnup,net> on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:14AM (#35573298) Homepage

        Don't you realise your crackpot flywheel plan could slow down the planet's rotation until we all FRY!?!

        Think of the children.

        • by Tim C (15259) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:18AM (#35573382)

          MMmmm, fried children...

        • by hey! (33014)

          Wise man say: what goes around, comes around. The point is to give that angular momentum back. Nobody will be the wiser, except the guys at the naval observatory. When was the last time anyone thought of *them*, I ask you. First we take away their clubhouse so Dick Cheney can live there (well, OK, Nelson Rockefeller was the first), then we play bloody hell with the ephemeris.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Don't you realise your crackpot flywheel plan could slow down the planet's rotation until we all FRY!?!

          Duh, everyone knows that you can solve that problem with counter-rotating flywheels.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Duh, everyone knows that you can solve that problem with counter-rotating flywheels.

            Oh no, I've already had enough of this "Contras will fix everything" philosophy.

            • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

              Duh, everyone knows that you can solve that problem with counter-rotating flywheels.

              Oh no, I've already had enough of this "Contras will fix everything" philosophy.

              I loved that game as a kid.

              • by Chris Burke (6130)

                We all did, but once we grow up, we have to realize that not every problem can be solved by liberal application of the Spread Gun.

                Though I'll admit it's at least worth trying.

                • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

                  We all did, but once we grow up, we have to realize that not every problem can be solved by liberal application of the Spread Gun.

                  Though I'll admit it's at least worth trying.

                  In the immortal words of Jack Burton, "You never know till you try!"

        • Counter rotating pairs, same as helicopters!

          then you just have to track failed units to make sure & maintain the 1/1 ratio necessary to keep the earths magnetic field from dissipating!

        • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

          Don't you realise your crackpot flywheel plan could slow down the planet's rotation until we all FRY!?!

          Think of the children.

          The easy solution to that is to destroy the Sun, which I'm pretty sure we've been yearning to do since the dawn of time.

          It's so simple, when you just take the time to THINK about it. Geez.

      • by xaxa (988988)

        We estimated [cam.ac.uk] that a car driven 100 km uses about 80 kWh of energy.

        80kWh / 5-10 minutes ~= 1000-500kW.

        Hmm. That's roughly the power draw of a small electric passenger train (e.g. an old subway train).

        • by pz (113803) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:42AM (#35573760) Journal

          We estimated [cam.ac.uk] that a car driven 100 km uses about 80 kWh of energy.

          80kWh / 5-10 minutes ~= 1000-500kW.

          Hmm. That's roughly the power draw of a small electric passenger train (e.g. an old subway train).

          Rescaling, the figures become 0.5 to 1.0 MW. That's a highly non-trivial amount of power to transfer electrically (ignoring the massive electromagnetic fields that level of power transfer creates). Not something that's going to be done in the home.

          Recall, a consumer-grade hair drier is in the 1.0 to 1.5 kW range. We're talking about operating about a thousand of those at the same time for 5-10 minutes. Personally, I don't want to be anywhere near that. Moreover, even if it's wildly efficient at 99% transfer to the batteries, that's 0.01 x 1 MW = 10 KW of loss that needs to be dissipated. I am not familiar with materials found in the home that can provide safe, reliable, tamper-proof thermal isolation from grasping a cable / connector package that is glowing hot.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          Fast charging is nice... It's not practical for home EV charging (the Leaf's 240v home charger requires a 30 amp circuit, and expecting more in a home is unreasonable), but it can be useful for fueling stations and consumer electronics (filling a 60Wh laptop battery in 3 minutes is doable on a standard 120V AC circuit).

          A far more useful thing would be improved capacity, though. Charging your car's batteries in five minutes sounds nice, but if you're driving a long distance and have to stop every hour to cha

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            You could trickle charge an ultracapacitor in your garage all day then just dump the accumulated electrons into your car in a couple of minutes, no 30 amps required.

            Re: "stop every hour"

            I'm pretty sure even today's electric cars can drive for a lot longer then that....

            • The problem with that approach is that you have all that energy stored in your garage overnight. Have you ever seen a capacitor bank at a power station blow? It's not pretty. Or rather it is, in a 4th of July sort of way.

            • by lgw (121541)

              Just the heat released by that power transfer (at any believable efficiency) would be immense. The magnetic field would be impressive as well: wad your car into a tight ball, and then melt it.

              Just trickle-charge a normal car battery pack, then swap the battery packs when you get home (a bit of powered mechanical aid would be needed, of course). Do I have to think of everything?

        • by cpu6502 (1960974)

          Their estimate is 80 kWh for just 62.1 mile range which is not enough for Americans. They like to see 300 miles between fuel stops, or ~380 kWh.

          ~4 million watt draw for 5-6 minute fuel stop.

          • by Joce640k (829181)

            62.1 miles is actually more convenient for most car usage - you don't ever have to go out of your way to a gas station.

            The Chevy volt has a gas engine which takes over if you do more than that.

            The PROBLEM with electric cars today isn't really the range, it's the price.

            • The PROBLEM with electric cars today isn't really the range, it's the price.

              No the problem is range more than cost. I could afford to buy a Nissan Leaf but I would still need to either buy or rent another vehicle for longer trips. It's not remotely unusual for me to drive more than 150 miles in a single day. Not every day but often enough - at least 2X per week. (I drive about 30-40K miles/year) Current electric cars are really cool but they are only usable within a fairly short radius (30-60 miles). Now they have other charms (quiet, efficient, etc) which I definitely like b

          • by mooingyak (720677)

            Their estimate is 80 kWh for just 62.1 mile range which is not enough for Americans. They like to see 300 miles between fuel stops, or ~380 kWh.

            ~4 million watt draw for 5-6 minute fuel stop.

            Yeah, very impractical in the US, outside of local driving in population centers.

            I drove to visit my sister last month, who lives about 900 miles away. Needing to stop for 5 minutes every 60 miles would be absolutely maddening. It would add over an hour to the trip just for recharges. Plus there are places where it's more than 60 miles between consecutive gas stations, so we would need recharge stations to be significantly more frequent than gas stations.

          • by xaxa (988988)

            Their estimate is 80 kWh for just 62.1 mile range which is not enough for Americans. They like to see 300 miles between fuel stops, or ~380 kWh.

            ~4 million watt draw for 5-6 minute fuel stop.

            I picked that only as a minimum. If fossil fuel continues to increase in price Americans might be forced to change, or else pay much more for the convenience.

            Many people already wait 5-6 minutes for the next bus or train to take them 5-10-20km, so if we can get the power to the recharging place I don't think this would be unworkable.

          • by Shotgun (30919)

            It would be plenty enough if they would change the train system to make it easy to load/unload electric cars. Load the cars sideways and in parallel, possibly even in a double-decker fashion. Then I could drive a few miles to a special train loading station. Drive up onto it like I'm climbing onto a roller coaster. Let the train pull me to the vicinity of my destination, where I drive off and onto regular roads for the last of my trip.

            The problem with trains is the last mile issue. The problem with ele

        • For some reason, technologists always overestimate potential throughput.

          It might be a good idea never to underestimate the energy transfer capacity of a hose pumping gasoline (into a station wagon, in my case).
        • by Black Gold Alchemist (1747136) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @12:22PM (#35574430)
          That number is wrong, because it calculates the energy in the gas that goes into gasoline cars. 80 kWh/100 km is 1,287 watt*hours/mile, five times higher than the average EV highway energy rate of 250 watt*hours/mile - electric cars are 5 times more efficient at using energy than gas cars. At low speed (city driving), a EV consumes around 150-160 watt*hours/mile, similar to the Japanese rail system, which gets 150 watt*hours/passenger-mile.
          • by xaxa (988988)

            Thanks, that's important.

            The Tesla is apparently 15kW/100km (from the same site), so with a single passenger that's roughly the same as the Japanese rail system. Presumably the engineering that went into making efficient motors for a super-efficient car will eventually be used in new trains, and we will see the train far ahead in the efficiency figures once more.

            • Actually, the train is already maxed out in efficiency. People don't understand how efficient electric vehicles are. Well designed ones, such as that Japanese train and Tesla Roadster are 90% efficient or more. There's not much room for improvement in either case. Many people are building their homemade electric cars on A/C induction motors which are used for industrial equipment and trains - one electric motor that powers on axle of a train can easily power a car. It might actually be more efficient (but n
        • The example you cite is not for an electric car. Using the Tesla Roadster as an example. 53 kWh for full charge == 300km == .1767kWh/km. Where I live electricity is about 11 cents/kWh. .11*53 == $5.30 == $1.76 per 100km. On the other hand gasoline cost almost $4 a gallon ($1.05/l) my car gets about 25MPG (9.4l/100km) So. if my math is correct, electricity will cost $1.76/100km and gasoline will cost $9.87/100km.

          What is an acceptable charge time? To charge in 10 hours would require drawing 5,300 watt

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        >>>in your house that charged only at night or from altpower and which charged your car whenever you liked

        The most likely answer is that electric cars, like gasoline cars today, would only be fast-chargeable at fueling stations. Just as you need specialized services to hold the gasoline (and government-regulated to make sure it does not blow up), you need specialized services that can handle dumping 90 kilowatt-hours into a car in just 5 minutes.

        Let's see. 900,000 watts == IV == 3700 amps at 240

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Not exactly safe. I think I'd rather convert from gasoline to hydrogen-fueled cars, and avoid the electric ones.

          Okay, multi-account troll boy, there's nothing inherently safe about hydrogen (although it may arguably be better than gasoline) and electricity is a typical intermediate step for making hydrogen in the BEST case. Virtually all hydrogen burned in the US is produced from natural gas at some expense in both money and energy, which is why it is expensive even though we breathe it constantly.

          Just as you need specialized services to hold the gasoline (and government-regulated to make sure it does not blow up),

          I don't need anything special to handle diesel fuel, though. False dichotomy, sucker.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        I apologize in advance for my lack of electrical knowledge. But would anything resembling modern standard household wiring even be able to handle that?

        Nothing resembling modern standard industrial wiring will handle that. On the other hand, you could have a flywheel or another type of battery bank (a very broad, shallow one, if you catch my drift - lots of cells) in your house that charged only at night or from altpower and which charged your car whenever you liked. Sounds expensive to me, too. Flywheels are probably the logical choice. You bury them to prevent runaways in the case of failure. You float them on maglev bearings to make them efficient. The power company should be putting them underneath substations but there's room for them in a residential context as well. It's being done now but not enough IMO (and MO is worth every penny you've paid...)

        Just because you *can* recharge the battery in 5 minutes doesn't mean you have to -- instead of charging a flywheel storage mechanism overnight you could just charge the car at whatever rate your household wiring can support.

        Charging the 24KWh Nissan Leaf battery over 8 hours would take around 24 amps at 120V, which is easily achieved with a 30 amp residential circuit (though a 240VAC circuit would require smaller wires). Charging the same battery in 5 minutes would take 2400 amps which is not reasonable, n

    • by slim (1652)

      I think the idea is probably that you'd charge (or swap out your battery) at somewhere analogous to a petrol station, rather than your home.

      However that means those places will need a *lot* of power.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Dr. Emmett Brown: [running out of the room] 1.21 gigawatts? 1.21 gigawatts? Great Scott!
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        Maybe each gas station could build an adjacent nuclear reactor.

      • by hey! (33014)

        Well, let's suppose the batteries are cheap enough to put in your car. Clearly they can handle a lot of current, in fact I'll bet they can discharge at high rates as well as charge. So what you do is you install a similar battery in your house and trickle charge it. At the "gas station" you'd have a massive flywheel that stores energy off the grid. That's how the Plasma Fusion Center at MIT does it. Some of the experiments they do would knock out the power grid if you tried the get the current spike the

        • by landoltjp (676315)

          Good idea. It would allow energy to be stored up from 'off peak', one would hope, to charge the car up when needed.

          I'm just thinking out loud here; no complaints, just some observations. The risk here that I see would be that every house has this battery "tank" of potential energy. I wonder how safe that would be? Granted, 50-80 years ago the houses where I lived all had oil tanks outside, and I can't see them being all that safe either.

          As for the gas stations, their current potential energy is stored in

    • Sure (Score:2, Informative)

      by Shivetya (243324)

      Stretch a cable between two lamp posts, run another cable to the clock tower and then recharge only during thunderstorms.

    • by jkeelsnc (1102563)
      The answer is NO, definitely not. 220V would not be good for rapid charging. But why do you need to recharge at home that fast in the first place? Now, out at rapid charging stations where you can stop and recharge in a few minutes they will likely have 440V circuits that can deliver that kind of current. If you have a 200 mile battery you will probably be able to recharge at home in 4 hours (on 220V) anyway which should be enough after you get home from work to charge up for the next day. If you are a
    • by Drethon (1445051)
      Just run normal wiring to a capacitor with some VERY heavy connectors, the charging station would need time in between vehicles to charge up but for a home station this would be fine.
    • by MightyYar (622222) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:29AM (#35573576)

      I apologize in advance for my lack of electrical knowledge. But would anything resembling modern standard household wiring even be able to handle that?

      Older houses are often wired for 60 Amps, and they don't stand a chance.

      Some newer houses with big AC units go as high as 200 Amps. More typical I think is 100 Amps. The Nissan Leaf has a 24 kW-h pack. To "quick charge" that in an hour with 100% efficiency would require 24kW (duh). At 240 V that is 24kW / 240V = 100 Amps. So a newish house could do it if it had a separate 100 A 240V feed just for charging the car. I figure that would set you back about $3000, so it's not out of the question. :)

      More likely, you'd pull up to a charging station that has a big industrial feed at a higher voltage so that you don't need a copper wire the size of your arm.

      • My old house is wired for 200 amps. But it was also built at a time when there was no easy way to get gas for the appliances in that area so it was designed to handle two electric water heaters, electric dryer, electric stove, electric oven, electric heaters in the bathrooms, etc. And, back then, everyone was expecting to get a nuclear reactor in their basement within the next decade so they wanted to be ready to have heater vs. AC battles to use up all that extra power.

        • by MightyYar (622222)

          LOL, I grew up in a house like that -but it had a second service and meter for the subsidized electric stuff.

      • by LoudMusic (199347)

        [quote]W..w..W - Willy Waterloo washes Warren Wiggins who is washing Waldo Woo.[/quote]

        What?

    • by robot256 (1635039)
      We worked all this out the last time a battery article came up. You can slow-charge at home, or fast charge at filling stations. Filling stations will install banks of capacitors that recharge in, say, 15-30 minutes from a dedicated high-power line. You drive in, dump a capacitor into your car, and go. It will take a good bit of work to get those power drops at every gas station, though, and capacitors are expensive. But then you don't have to worry about filling the fuel tanks or anything.
    • by jonbryce (703250)

      A typical 100A household supply will in 5 minutes give you the equivalent energy of 171ml of Diesel. To get the equivalent of the 10l/min or so my local petrol station pump manages, you are going to need a 30kA supply, and you would need about 200 standard electric cables to carry it.

    • by SharpFang (651121)

      The answer is a standad, "slow" overnight charger at home and a "fast charge" fuel station.
      If you're rich, you can always buy extra cells to store the energy for fast charge, but normally you plug the car in for the night at home and "fast charge" only if you go more than 100km/day.

    • Considering the hassle I had just getting a 220-volt outlet to power my dryer installed at my house, I'd hate to think what the electrician is going to say when I tell him I want an outlet that can deliver enough power to drive my car 100 miles--and deliver it in just a few minutes. Poor bastard is going to have a heart attack.

      Of course, with your 220v line, some paddles (or jumper cables) and gel, you'll be ready for that. :-)

    • by sjames (1099)

      It wouldn't HAVE to be charged that fast, it's just that it can be.

      At home, stick to the overnight charge. When out and about, use the specialized quick charge station.

      To get your house up to the quick charge task, the mods would have to go all the way back to the electrical substation you're connected to at least.

  • by Quiet_Desperation (858215) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:13AM (#35573270)

    Six months from now no one will remember these, along with all the other "revolutions" in battery tech.

    Me? Cynical? Not nearly enough, actually.

    • by Hartree (191324)

      It's incremental progress. Right now nanomaterials for power applications are a hot topic.

      But I'd give Braun more chance than some at actually turning up something that'll make it into use.

      (Disclaimer: I'm biased. He's an affiliate professor in the deparment I work in.)

  • Aluminum-air (Score:4, Interesting)

    by McGregorMortis (536146) on Tuesday March 22, 2011 @11:25AM (#35573500)

    That's one of the interesting properties of the aluminum-air battery. The aluminum plates can be replaced quickly and easily. Just pop out the spent plate, drop in a new one, and off you go.

    The reaction products (aluminum oxide) can also be captured and recycled into new aluminum.

    A nifty idea, but there are assorted problems that have to be solved before it can be practical.

  • With rapid charge / discharge, it seems to me that residential installation of these batteries under the control of the power company would be ideal - when the grid is under used, your battery takes up the slack and draws juice to charge. When the grid is over used, your system can either supply local power (like quick charging your car) or supply power back into the local grid.

    This would smooth out the power demand at the central generating stations.

    Of course, I think we should also have community thorium

    • by Shotgun (30919)

      Great, I get in my car to go to work, and the power company just had to take a generator offline and hour before. I find the battery half depleted. Not enough to get to work.

      Thanks, but I'll pass this time.

  • Think of what this will do to the Energizer Bunny, you insensitive clods!
  • It might be caused by a bias in what I read, but I thought the electric vehicle had 2 other more serious problems. The first problem was the resources required in their production. Many of the materials used in EV is causing shortages in these resources. The second problem is that the electricity network is not designed to handle the extra distribution involved in a mass scale up of EVs. Batteries that charge quicker puts more load on the network when for instance people get home on a work day.
    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      1. This is just supply lag, it will catch up.
      2. Electric companies would love to have EVs. They currently have to do all kinds of fancy tricks to deal with the extra power at night.

  • ...what's the average lifespan for these batteries?
  • I would like to see vehilces manufactaured that run on natural gas. It burns clean with virtually no emissions, and is pretty ubiquitous (some places even have natural gas filling stations - my town of 30K people has one)

    Extra points if they would make them plugin hybrids.

    Most forklifts run on natural gas or propane and are safe to use indoors because of the lack of harmful emissions.

    I know its another natural resource but I think it's a much cleaner alternative to gasoline. The electric grid isn't there ye

  • To really get decent performance from electric cars putting induction chargers in the road would be best because the car could drive along and pick up power as it goes and when stopped probably charge its battery just as is proposed for new wireless charging stations.

    And before anyone says thing of the disruption - well think of the disruption when new water mains, gas pipes, cable TV is being installed. The induction points would only need to be on main roads and highways , not down every little back stree

    • by slim (1652)

      Don't cross the road if you have a pacemaker.

    • by daid303 (843777)

      You forgot the step where you added the magic pixie dust to power the induction points. Power still has to come from somewhere, and induction power transfer has a huge loss. Electric cars are only good for the environment when you are more efficient at making and transmitting the power then a car engine. As a large part of the world electricity is still generated by fossil fuels. Also, oil is not just used for gas, it's also used to make tons and tons of other products.

      Also, how do you charge the people for

      • by Viol8 (599362)

        "You forgot the step where you added the magic pixie dust to power the induction points"

        What do you think powers the street lights and buildings right next to the road? And the source of that power is not relevant to this discussion.

        Also induction might be inefficient but so is charging a battery.

        "Also, how do you charge the people for charging?"

        Who cares? I'm talking about the technology , now how beaurocrats will charge for its use.

        "And cutting loops in roads make the roads wear out faster. Also the induc

  • Would a large bank of these be what's needed for a "smart" grid with fluctuating power levels from green energy like Solar/Wind? Large dump of power on the grid, charge the batteries, wind stops or a cloud and now you need to pull power out of the batteries.

    Is there any inferred efficiency with the batteries if they can charge faster? Less resistance so less waste heat? Just asking.

    I would see these being useful for hybrid cars. You can dump momentum faster into electrical storage, so the actual breaks get

  • Whether you are "re-charging" your car with gasoline or electricity, the procedure of transferring all of that energy is dangerous. With liquid fuel, there are the obvious flammability issues - nobody would ever consider putting a fueling station inside their home. And while electric charging is much safer, it is not perfectly safe. There are potential fire and explosion hazards from electrical malfunctions, incorrect or damaged batteries, cabling and connectors, interference from foreign objects, includ
  • I don't know about anybody else, but I have an electronics/engineering background, and while many things (jumping out of an airplane, being on stage, etc) don't bother me, the mere thought of being in the immediate vicinty of apparatus capable of delivering that much power in that short a period of time makes my hair stand up on the back of my neck in a fashion similar to being caught out in the open in the middle of a thunderstorm.

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