Electric Vehicles: Only as Good as Their Batteries

(DGIwire) – Will battery electric vehicles (EVs) save the planet? If they succeed, it will certainly have a lot to do with the kind of batteries they utilize. One of the reason EVs improve on traditional cars is because the latter utilize lead-acid batteries, which—although relatively cheap and recyclable—exploit workers using unsafe methods to do the recycling in developing countries, according to a recent article in Futurism.com.

Meanwhile, most current EVs use lithium-ion batteries, which are lighter and can store a charge longer than the lead-acid variety—but they are much more expensive. And if they get damaged, notes Futurism.com, the highly reactive lithium inside can explode. Li-ion cells also rely on a limited supply of rare-earth metals, which are environmentally hazardous to mine. Workers, including illegal child laborers, operate under harsh conditions to produce them.

“If EVs are truly to take over as the dominant form of vehicle, they will require a new kind of battery with a new kind of charging paradigm,” 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. “Research on supercapacitor-inspired products like C-Ion points toward a way this technology can serve as a viable alternative.”

With the use of C-Ion cells, energy can be safely transferred to EVs using extreme fast charging rates greater than 350kW. This can help ensure that the driver “wait time” at the charge station can be reduced to five minutes or less. This ultra-high transfer rate is possible because C-Ion can charge and discharge very quickly, and also because C-Ion does not catch fire, so it is perfectly safe to have a large energy store on site next to existing storage tanks of gasoline and diesel. Where filling station sites already have EV charge points, these can be upgraded to 350kW by installing this system.

To resolve this issue, banks of C-Ion cells could be used to buffer the grid. Very-high-rate direct current (DC) chargers could then be connected to the C-Ion banks operating at 350kW, 450kW or even as high as 1000kW. These DC chargers could be installed at filling stations, city center sites or shopping malls without the need to install new grid infrastructure. To minimize capital investment and the price of electricity, large containers could be installed on sites that initially contain 1MWh of stored energy in their C-Ion cells. At heavily used charging stations, multiple containers may be installed.

Extreme fast chargers of 350kW could be installed on site connected to the container storage, not directly to the site grid connection, and vehicles could be charged from the stored energy at the 350kW rate. And because C-Ion cells have very rapid charge and discharge characteristics, the C-Ion banks can be filled up at night or when electricity is off-peak—ensuring that the cost of the energy required to keep these stations fully charged is minimized, meaning less financial strain for the government and electric vehicle owners alike.

“If EVs are only as good as their rechargeable characteristics, researchers must ensure that these can satisfy everyone’s needs,” Voller adds.