Scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new method of battery design which may allow quick charge, long lasting batteries to emerge. Quick charge batteries present opportunity in numerous arenas, namely for the convenience they provide. However, perhaps most recognizably, they represent ground breaking opportunities for the future of the electric car.
Illinois professor Paul Braun and his team have developed a new battery which could allow cell phones to charge in seconds, or a computer to charge in minutes. The team owes their invention to a form of three-dimensional nanotechnology. The newly developed battery electrode can charge up to 100 times faster than the standard battery without sacrificing storage size or capacity. The battery’s design has special appeal for various millitary, medical, laser, and electric vehicle devices which could benefit immensely from a quick charging, high capacity battery.
The battery’s success lies in the ability to receive power quickly, yet discharge power slowly and steadily. Scientists have found battery volume a formidable obstacle in the past as batteries with high volume material charge slowly, and those with low volume lose power rapidly. Braun’s group strove to combine battery-like energy with capacitor power, thus allowing the virtues of both technologies to function in standard, battery powered appliances. Braun’s team was able to structure thin battery material into a three dimensional form that is capable of absorbing power quickly and maintaining energy for a longer period of time.
Among the numerous possibilities the new technology might provide, the electric vehicle expects to advance significantly. Electric cars can evoke anxiety in drivers travelling long distances, and many consumers have expressed concern regarding the car’s battery life. Prospective buyers frequently worry that the vehicle’s battery could die during a drive, leaving them stranded. The fear is so common it is now known as “range anxiety.”
Driving range of an electric vehicle is often between 30-70 miles when fully charged, depending on the car model and pervading weather conditions. Electric car manufacturers frequently aim to provide enough power for the driver to make their daily commute to and from school or work and perhaps to complete several errands as well. Based on the average number of miles commuters travel daily, manufacturers say their electric cars are capable of meeting the typical daily needs of the majority of their buyers.
However, on the occasion that one travels further than the average daily commute, some are not convinced the electric vehicle is a superior option to the standard gas-powered car. Electric charging stations can be few and far between, and the possibility of running out of power is much higher for an electric car than a gas-powered vehicle if the driver does not stop at home. This responsibility is enough to prevent many people from purchasing an electric car which could otherwise protect precious natural resources and conserve large amounts of money spent on gas.
The new battery technology provides occasion for the electric car to finally match the gas powered vehicle’s range and convenience. By employing Braun’s new battery technology, electric vehicles could reach charging capacity in the same amount of time it takes to fill a tank of gas. While current batteries require anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours to reach an 80% charge, an empty quick charge car battery would reach a 90% charge in only 2 minutes. Alleviating the waiting time means that someday electric charging stations could become as frequent and popular as gas stations are today. Furthermore, a tremendous anxiety has been removed for the long distance traveller who would no longer have to worry about “range anxiety.” For these reasons and more, Braun’s battery design has paved the way for many technological advancements to come.
The scientists say the technology is still in the lab and have not said when it will be made commercially available. However, the development represents a step towards a convenient and more environmentally friendly future for cars.