New fast-charging battery promises a full ‘tank’ in five minutes © Getty Images

New fast-charging battery promises a full ‘tank’ in five minutes

Re-engineered lithium-ion battery lets you fill up electric cars almost as fast as those that run on fossil fuels.

Petrol- and diesel-engined cars have forever had one major advantage over electric vehicles: refuelling speed. But that looks set to change with the release of a new fast-charging battery.

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In January, Israeli firm StoreDot unveiled its new lithium-ion car battery, which it claims can be fully recharged from empty in just five minutes, a development that could eliminate range anxiety.

Said to be the main hurdle stopping more drivers from adopting electric vehicles, range anxiety is the fear of running low on power before reaching your destination, or having to sit around for a long time waiting for the battery to charge.

Although most modern electric vehicles can charge in 20 to 60 minutes, they require a special type of rapid-charging station to attain these quick charging speeds. Meanwhile, filling a petrol or diesel car’s tank takes between three and five minutes.

The recharge speed of StoreDot’s ‘extreme-fast-charging’ lithium-ion battery technology has previously been demonstrated in mobile phones, drones and electric scooters but the company has now adapted it for use in cars.

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The batteries differ in construction to conventional lithium-ion batteries in a number of ways, most notably by substituting graphite components for germanium.

Germanium has a lower resistance than graphite, allowing faster rates of charge with less heat generation. It also reduces the gradual degradation of a lithium-ion battery – a process known as ‘plating’ – that fast charging would otherwise accelerate.

StoreDot hopes to make further improvements by switching germanium for silicon, a cheaper alternative, in its second-generation battery, prototypes of which are expected to see the light of day later in 2021.

Faster charging batteries are a welcome development, but they aren’t the only barrier to widespread adoption of electric vehicles. Charging infrastructure is also a concern of motorists considering the switch.

Despite this, 2020 was the best year ever for sales of electric vehicles, with battery and plug-in hybrid cars accounting for 1 in 10 registrations, according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). In 2019, that figure was 1 in 30.

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It may take longer, however, before we see manufacturers adopt the new technology in their cars. A review published in the eTransportation journal, by Anna Tomaszewska and colleagues, suggested that longer, real-world testing would
be needed to ensure the new fast-charging batteries could perform well over long timescales.

What is the CO2 per mile for electric cars charged from the mains?

Asked by: John Whitbread, Staffordshire

There are many variables to consider. Roughly speaking, in the UK, an electric car charged from the mains currently emits roughly 80g of CO2 per mile, compared to 216g CO2 per mile for the average petrol car.

An electric car’s emissions depend on what proportion of its electricity is derived from burning fossil fuels, and therefore varies from country to country, and according to the time of day. As we generate more energy from renewable sources, the carbon emissions of electric cars will drop further.

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