Researchers say new technology can speed up EV charging times

Charging an electric vehicle could be much faster if EVs were powered by supercapacitors - ConsumerAffairs

But the technology would probably have to wait for the next generation of electric vehicles

It seems too good to be true: A new charging technology that would charge your phone in 60 seconds and your electric vehicle (EV) in about 10 or 12 minutes.

But researchers at the University of Colorado (UC) say the technology is within reach.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, UC chemical engineers report that they quickly stored energy by moving charged particles called ions through the tiny pores inside a supercapacitor — an energy storage device with the potential for much faster charging than conventional batteries.

“The primary appeal of supercapacitors lies in their speed,” Ankur Gupta, an assistant professor of chemical and biological engineering, said in a statement. 

Gupta said by making the ions move more efficiently the scientists were able to make their release of energy much faster. The faster release of energy, researchers say, results in faster charging.

But there are obstacles

Charles Welch, co-founder of  ZAPBATT, was a lead engineer at Northrop Grumman, focusing on integrating new battery chemistries into military applications. He told ConsumerAffairs supercapacitors have been around for at least two decades.

"Capacitors are kind of like an electron bucket where you can pump things in and out," Welch said. "You can charge them extremely fast, that's never been the problem. It's more so that they can't store enough energy to be useful."

Despite their shortcomings, Welch says capacitors may lay a role in a future charging system that requires less time than conventional batteries.

That means people who have already purchased an expensive EV may be out of luck because shorter charging time technology probably wouldn't apply to the current generation of electric vehicles.

And while batteries take much longer to charge, they hold as much as 10 times the charge as a supercapacitor. That means EVs equipped with supercapacitors would require more frequent charging.

We're getting closer

But Welch says we're getting closer to power sources that can be charged much faster than current batteries. 

"The main challenge has been the cost of integration," he said. "For these companies to change to a faster charging technology would be a multi-billion dollar effort.

According to Car Magazine, supercapacitors have another disadvantage – they leak power when not in use. Still, Gupta describes his team’s findings as “the missing link” that could lead to faster charging of all types of electric devices and wider acceptance of electric vehicles.

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