Electric car

(Credit: Ernest Ojeh on Unsplash)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — One of the criticisms about your typical electric car is they don’t travel very far and it takes all day to recharge them. Engineers at Penn State may have solved both of those issues with their new design for the electric car battery. Their study finds the battery not only charges in 10 minutes, it has a projected range of 250 miles.

Along with groundbreaking performance, Chao-Yang Wang, a professor of chemical engineering as well as materials science and engineering, says this invention provides an affordable option for drivers usually priced out of the electric car market.

“We developed a pretty clever battery for mass-market electric vehicles with cost parity with combustion engine vehicles,” Wang says in a university release. “There is no more range anxiety and this battery is affordable.”

One battery for electric car will last a lifetime?

Besides getting you to work and back each day, the engineers say the new battery should last for two million miles! They credit this amazing performance to the device’s ability to heat up quickly, charge or discharge, and then rapidly cool off again.

“The very fast charge allows us to downsize the battery without incurring range anxiety,” the director of Penn State’s Electrochemical Engine Center adds.

Researchers explain that the battery uses a self-heating approach developed by Wang’s team. It uses a thin nickel foil with one end connected to the negative terminal. The other end extends outside the battery cell and creates a third terminal. Once electrons start flowing, they quickly heat the nickel through resistance and warm the battery itself.

When the inside of the battery reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a switch opens and the device can either charge or discharge rapidly. Using the self-heating approach to battery power, researchers say they can use inexpensive materials to build each battery’s cathode, anode, and a safe, low-voltage electrolyte.

The team adds that their battery’s cathode is a stable, lithium iron phosphate which doesn’t include expensive materials like cobalt. The anode is made of large particle graphite; a cheap and light material previous studies have also looked at including in new power sources.

“This battery has reduced weight, volume and cost,” Wang reports. “I am very happy that we finally found a battery that will benefit the mainstream consumer mass market.”

High-performance cars for everyone?

The new battery not only lasts longer, it might also supercharge the everyday sedan you take to work. Researchers say their battery produces 40 kilowatt hours and 300 kilowatts of power once it heats up. An electric car using such a battery could go from zero to 60 miles per hour in three seconds.

“This is how we are going to change the environment and not contribute to just the luxury cars,” Wang concludes. “Let everyone afford electric vehicles.”

The study appears in the journal Nature Energy.

About Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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