Range anxiety is still a concern for many people considering electric vehicles in 2021. Technology continues to improve, particularly with regard to large passenger vehicles. However, charge time is also still a concern. Even with ultra-fast chargers, times are still not as quick as most of us have grown accustomed to with topping up fuel for our combustion engines.
These two problems are tied together. Researchers continue developing ever-larger, more energy-dense battery units, both to address range anxiety and to compensate for those longer charging times. After all, if it’s going to take hours to charge, you might as well get as long a range as possible out of the effort, right? What if there was a different way to think about powering battery-electric vehicles, though?
That’s what MAHLE Powertrain and Allotrope Energy say they’ve accomplished, using a new lithium-carbon battery technology that they’ve co-developed. For those unfamiliar, MAHLE has long manufactured automotive components, and acquired the well-respected engine maker Cosworth Technology from the Audi Group back in 2005, creating MAHLE Powertrain. Since that time, MAHLE Powertrain has worked to develop more efficient combustion, hybrid, and battery electric powertrains for future vehicles.
According to the team, these lithium-carbon batteries combine the benefits of both supercapacitors and traditional lithium-ion batteries to create a solution that offers good power density coupled with ultra-fast recharging. Since they recharge relatively quickly, only a small-capacity battery is needed. This, in turn, means the batteries cost less, while MAHLE says they’re also able to charge in as little as 90 seconds.
“Range anxiety is often quoted as the main barrier to electric vehicle adoption, but if the battery could be recharged in the same time it takes to refuel a conventional IC engine vehicle, much of that worry goes away,” MAHLE Powertrain head of research Dr. Mike Bassett said in a statement.
“With the rise of the on-demand economy, there’s been a rapid increase in the use of petrol-powered mopeds for urban deliveries such as take-away meals, and this has contributed to air quality issues in our cities. Decarbonizing these deliveries has so far proved difficult without maintaining a stock of expensive interchangeable batteries or switching to a larger, heavier electric vehicle with increased energy consumption,” Bassett concluded.
What’s more, MAHLE and Allotrope say, these batteries are completely recyclable, use no rare-earth metals in their composition, and also don’t face the same thermal degradation problems that traditional lithium-ion batteries do. Even better, the team says the use of capacitor-style cathodes in these batteries means they’ll have a lifetime of over 100,000 charge cycles.
It’s worth noting that the 90-second charge time figure only applies to a very particular use case, involving a 20kW lithium-carbon battery pack. Those would be ideal for electric delivery mopeds, but both capacity and time would increase by necessity for larger EVs. If this tech pans out, it could still be a real breakthrough—just don’t expect 90-second charge times for your electric superbike at this point.