This 10-minute fast-charging battery was developed for electric cars, with the black box on the top containing a battery management system to control the module. (Image: EC Power)

Researchers at Penn State University have achieved a breakthrough in electric vehicle (EV) battery design to enable a 10-minute charge time for a typical EV battery.

“The need for smaller, faster-charging batteries is greater than ever,” said Chao-Yang Wang, the William E. Diefenderfer Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State. “There are simply not enough batteries and critical raw materials, especially those produced domestically, to meet anticipated demand.”

In August, California passed an extensive plan to restrict and ultimately ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars within the state. By 2035, the largest auto market in the U.S. will effectively retire the internal combustion engine.

If new car sales are going to shift to EVs, they’ll need to overcome two major drawbacks: a slow recharge and being too large to be efficient and affordable.

“Our fast-charging technology works for most energy-dense batteries and will open a new possibility to downsize electric vehicle batteries from 150 to 50 kWh without causing drivers to feel range anxiety,” said Wang, whose lab partnered with State College-based startup EC Power to develop the technology. “The smaller, faster-charging batteries will dramatically cut down battery cost and usage of critical raw materials such as cobalt, graphite and lithium, enabling mass adoption of affordable electric cars.”

The technology relies on internal thermal modulation, Wang explained. Batteries operate most efficiently when they are hot but not too hot. Keeping batteries consistently at the right temperature has been a major challenge for battery engineers. Historically, they have relied on bulky heating and cooling systems to regulate battery temperature, but that wastes a lot of energy.

The team decided to regulate the temperature from inside the battery, and they did so by developing a new battery structure that adds an ultrathin nickel foil as the fourth component in addition to anode, electrolyte, and cathode. Acting as a stimulus, the nickel foil self-regulates the battery’s temperature and reactivity — this allows for a 10-minute fast charge on just about any EV battery, Wang said.

“True fast-charging batteries would have immediate impact,” the researchers wrote. “Since there are not enough raw minerals for every internal combustion engine car to be replaced by a 150 kWhequipped EV, fast charging is imperative for EVs to go mainstream.”

The study’s partner, EC Power, is working to manufacture and commercialize the fast-charging battery for an affordable and sustainable future of vehicle electrification, Wang added.

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