Autonomous Electric Vehicles: Recharging ‘on the Go’ Makes ‘Cents’

(DGIwire) – Many people envision a viable future for driverless or autonomous vehicles—with seven out of 10 Americans expecting them to be common within the next 15 years, according to a recent survey reported by The Washington Post. Yet as exciting as this technology may be, there is still a challenge to be overcome. If autonomous vehicles are to be powered by electricity, where is the most convenient place for them to be recharged?

“Because it is predicted that most autonomous vehicles will be shared by passengers, similarly to taxis and Ubers rather than privately owned, they are going to be spending almost all of their operating lifetimes shuttling people from one destination to another instead of being parked in someone’s garage at night,” says Stephen Voller, CEO of CEO of ZapGo Ltd, the developer of Carbon-Ion™ (C-Ion®) cells, a fast-charging and safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries. “The most cost-effective way to keep autonomous EVs operating economically is to utilize a technology that allows them to charge very quickly without having to remain parked for any substantial length of time. For reasons like these, Carbon-Ion could offer a promising alternative.”

For example, ZapGo has installed Carbon-Ion cells into GATEway pods—the autonomous EVs that whisk travelers from Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport to parking areas. The pods are charged up “on the go,” which previously took about four hours but has now been reduced to 35 seconds thanks to ZapGo’s technology, which is a hybrid battery design that allows for ultra-fast charging via a combination of supercapacitor and conventional battery technologies. The company wants to provide both energy-storing battery banks for EV charging stations—allowing for minimal impacts on the grid—and battery packs for EVs themselves.

For the Heathrow pods, charging downtime using Carbon-Ion has been effectively eliminated, since it takes approximately 40 seconds for the pod doors to open and for passengers to board the vehicles. The Carbon-Ion batteries can charge the pods’ onboard lead-acid batteries and provide boost power when the vehicle first starts or goes uphill.

ZapGo’s Carbon-Ion technology is being developed as the first cell of its kind that combines the characteristics of a supercapacitor and—within a few years—is anticipated to match the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, while also being safe and recyclable. Unlike lithium-ion, which works by an electrochemical reaction, ZapGo involves storing electrons with no electrochemical reaction. This means there is nothing to get used up, so ZapGo cells can last through many more charge-and-discharge cycles than lithium-ion, while staying safe and not at risk for a fire.

“The work that has been done to date suggests that Carbon-Ion technology could be integrated into autonomous vehicles and help recharge them ‘on the road’ in a timely and convenient manner,” Voller adds.

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