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Chao-Yang Wang/Pennsylvania State University

New charging technique could power an electric car battery in 10 minutes

Tesla and other car companies are selling a record number of electric vehicles (EVs). But even at souped-up “supercharger” stations, the cars still require up to 50 minutes to top off their batteries. A new advance may change that.

One strategy for boosting battery charging speeds has been to raise the battery temperature during charging, which accelerates the chemical reactions inside the battery. But keeping batteries at high temperatures can cause components to break down quickly.

Now, researchers report they can prevent this breakdown, and allow fast charging, if the heat is added just for short periods. By heating up a charging device to 60°C for just 10 minutes, they were able to speed the incorporation of lithium ions into layers of graphite that make up the anode (as shown in the above artist’s representation), the key step in recharging the battery. If scaled up, this would allow them to add 320 kilometers in driving range to conventional lithium-ion batteries, they report today in Joule. The heated batteries were also stable, able to go through 1700 charge-discharge cycles with little degradation.

Next up, the researchers are looking to cut their charging time in half, adding enough juice to power an EV in just 5 minutes.

*Correction, 30 October, 3:50 p.m.: This story originally misstated the charging time for Tesla vehicles using a Tesla supercharger. According to the company, the average time for charging one of their cars using a supercharger is 45 to 50 minutes.