Coming Soon to Gas Stations: Chargers for Electric Cars

(DGIwire) – How quickly could the average American identify the location of the nearest electric vehicle (EV) charging station to his or her home? Chances are, relatively few people would be able to say where it is located at all. This is a challenge for the EV market as it looks to expand its footprint in the U.S. and around the world. As Fast Company recently noted, electric cars still make up only a fraction of a percent of all passenger cars, and only around a quarter are aware of charging stations on the route they regularly drive or at the stores they shop. As the magazine notes, after cost, the lack of ability to charge away from home is the second-most-common reason people give for not buying EVs.

“There is a large segment of the car-buying population, not yet sold on the idea of EVs, for whom charging is the sticking point,” says Stephen Voller, CEO of ZapGo Ltd, the developer of Carbon-Ion™ (C-Ion®) cells, a fast-charging and safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries. “The issue involves not only the location of charging stations but also the rate at which an EV can be fully recharged. Until this can match what is possible with a gasoline-powered vehicle, the market is likely to stay relatively small.”

With regard to expanding the network of EV charging stations, efforts are underway. For example, as noted by Fast Company, a program called Electrify America is investing $2 billion to build 2,000 chargers nationwide, while the states of California, New York and New Jersey are spending $1.3 billion to build more charging infrastructure.

A related critical issue involves the rate at which the current generation of EVs, powered by lithium-ion batteries, is capable of recharging. If a standard residential wall socket delivers 3kW of energy per hour, a standard electric car battery (100kWh) would take about 33 hours to charge fully. Although street chargers available today can deliver faster charging (30kW), these still require four hours to charge an electric car. Even with 120kW chargers, it takes about an hour to charge an electric car—while the most cutting-edge chargers today, announced by Electrify America in the U.S. and Ionity in Europe, deliver 350kW.

“Lithium-ion batteries today can’t handle a 350kW charge rate, and even if they could, it still leaves people far from the goal of a five-minute recharge for a car,” Voller adds. “What is needed for that is a recharge rate of 1 MW, which can be made possible with innovative materials such as C-Ion.”

Not only can C-Ion cells used into EVs enable these vehicles to recharge more quickly; the same technology, integrated into charging stations, can serve as a buffer, allowing a great deal of charge to be transferred from charger to vehicle in a short amount of time without putting undue strain on local electric grids.

As governments and automobile manufacturers around the globe become increasingly convinced of the need to transform the world into one where EVs are the standard mode of transportation, addressing an array of issues involving battery power and infrastructure will be a must. New technologies like C-Ion could play an integral role in overcoming these challenges.