January 20th, 2021 by Steve Hanley
StoreDot is an Israeli company that said back in 2018 it was working on an EV battery that could be recharged in just 5 minutes. Since then, it has tested fast charging batteries for portable electronics and motorcycles. Now it says it has produced 1000 EV batteries on an actual production line that will power a vehicle for up to 250 miles and recharge in just 5 minutes.
The batteries were manufactured by Eve Energy in China and are being distributed to various interested parties so they can test them in their own vehicles. According to The Guardian, several companies, including Daimler, BP, Samsung, and TDK have invested $130 million in StoreDot to date.
“The number one barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles is no longer cost, it is range anxiety,” says Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot. “You’re either afraid that you’re going to get stuck on the highway or you’re going to need to sit in a charging station for two hours. But if the experience of the driver is exactly like fueling [a gasoline powered car], this whole anxiety goes away. A five-minute charging lithium-ion battery was considered to be impossible,” he said. “But we are not releasing a lab prototype, we are releasing engineering samples from a mass production line. This demonstrates it is feasible and it’s commercially ready.”
The StoreDot battery replaces graphite electrodes with semiconductor nanoparticles which allow ions to pass more quickly and easily. These nanoparticles are currently based on germanium, which is water soluble and easier to handle in manufacturing but StoreDot’s plans to use silicon eventually because it is much cheaper. Prototypes with silicon electrodes are expected to be available later this year. Myersdorf says those batteries will be cost competitive with existing lithium ion batteries.
“The bottleneck to extra-fast charging is no longer the battery,” he says. Instead, the charging stations and grids that supply them need to be upgraded, which is why the company is working with BP. “BP has 18,200 forecourts and they understand that 10 years from now, all these stations will be obsolete if they don’t repurpose them for charging. Batteries are the new oil.”
Penn State Scientists Reveal Self Heating Battery
Researchers at the Penn State University Battery and Energy Storage Technology Center led by Professor Chao-Yang Wang say the key to fast charging lithium iron phosphate batteries is to heat them to around 140º F prior to starting a charging cycle. They claim their battery can charge in just 10 minutes and will have a range of about 250 miles.
According to EV Obsession, the team has developed a self heating battery that uses a thin nickel foil. One end of the foil is attached to the negative terminal and the other extends outside the cell to create a third terminal. Once electrons begin to flow through the foil, it heats up rapidly and warms the inside of the battery. The research has been published in the journal Nature Energy.
“We developed a pretty clever battery for mass-market electric vehicles with cost parity with combustion engine vehicles,” says Professor Wang. “There is no more range anxiety and this battery is affordable. The very fast charge allows us to downsize the battery without incurring range anxiety.”
Wang tells The Guardian the self heating battery will be able to charge and discharge 2,500 times, giving it a theoretical life of 2,000,000 miles. By comparison, Myersdorf claims the StoreDot battery will retain 80% of its capacity after 1000 charge/discharge cycles.
Wang says the self heating battery will cost less for two reasons. First, faster charging times mean manufacturers can use smaller batteries which will reduce costs. Second, it uses inexpensive materials for the electrodes. The cathode is lithium iron phosphate, which is thermally stable and does not contain expensive materials like cobalt. The anode is made of very large particle graphite, which is safe, light, and inexpensive material. Because of the self-heating, the researchers said they do not have to worry about uneven deposition of lithium on the anode which can cause dangerous lithium spikes to form.
“This battery has reduced weight, volume and cost,” says Wang. “I am very happy that we finally found a battery that will benefit the mainstream consumer mass market.” He claims the smaller batteries can still produce 40 kilowatt hours and 300 kilowatts of power once they are heated to the optimum temperature. An electric vehicle with this battery could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3 seconds and would drive like a Porsche, he adds. “This is how we are going to change the environment and not contribute to just the luxury cars,” said Wang. “Let everyone afford electric vehicles.”
The Take Away
All this sounds very exciting but is not likely to happen overnight. Even though StoreDot has produced some actual batteries on a standard production line, their technology will not realize its full potential until there are more high power fast chargers available — a lot more. And the battery from Penn State is still in the laboratory stage. We know it can take years for products to make it out of the lab and into the showroom. We first reported on the Penn State self heating battery in 2018.
Anna Tomaszewska of Imperial College London tells The Guardian, “I think technologies [like StoreDot’s] could start entering the market in the next five years or so. However, since they will be more difficult and expensive to manufacture, we’re likely to initially only see them in niche markets that are highly performance driven and not as price sensitive as electric vehicles.” In other words, don’t hold your breath.
The good news is that battery technology is progressing by leaps and bounds. Life spans are going up while prices are coming down. There are companies like QuantumScape who say they will have solid state batteries available soon. Make that very soon. And Tesla certainly has to be regarded as one of the leading companies when it comes to pushing the battery technology envelope, even though they don’t publicize their results quite as much as some other companies.
The day of low cost electric cars that have decent range and recharge quickly is approaching but it’s not quite here yet. I was talking to a neighbor yesterday who has spent his entire career working for a well known US auto manufacturer. He lamented that the “tree huggers,” as he called them, would probably ban cars with infernal combustion engines by the end of this decade — a sorrowful prospect from his point of view.
I understand his feelings. We all prefer stability over disruption. The auto industry has provided him with a nice living, put his kids through college, and allowed him to have a lovely home in the North and a winter residence in the South. Who wouldn’t be nervous about the future once gasoline stops being the power source for most vehicles? From his perspective, a future without gasoline and diesel engines is a very bleak future indeed.
But from my perspective, being one of those accursed tree huggers myself, the future is brighter than it has been in the past 50 years. We are on the cusp of an energy revolution, one that will allow humans to lead fuller, richer, healthier lives without degrading the planet that sustains us. Our grandchildren will snicker when we tell them it used to take an hour or more to recharge the batteries in our vehicles. Can’t wait for the future to get here!
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