Really Charged Up

The electric car might get here faster if it weren’t for some of the stumbling blocks

In the eyes of the America consumer, one of the worst sins is inconvenience. The electric car, for instance, might zoom to the market faster if manufacturers could just settle some of the issues that just sound like a bother — the lengthy recharging times, for instance.

The quick-charge battery might be closer than you think, and it could affect not just cars but dozens of electrically powered products. Professor Paul Braun and his research team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new method for reviving batteries in a jiffy.

Does this mean we’ll be able to drive up to an electrical pump and “fill it up” in a few minutes? That very much desired reality is much closer than you think, says Braun.

They didn’t create a new battery, just a new way of making them. “What we discovered in my lab is that we could change the internal structure of a battery so that we charge and discharge it much more rapidly.” They’re not using new materials, he says, but changing the assembly of it into a honeycomb-like formation that speeds up the movement of electrons.

Any battery depends on the movement of ions across electrodes via electrolyte. That, according to Braun’s study, Nature Nanotechnology, is where his team has made the sudden leap. They have produced these results in both newer lithium-ion batteries and the older, cheaper tech of nickel-metal hydride batteries.

It can’t be predicted when this technology will make it’s way to automobiles. Flashlights, phones and lawn mowers might make a good starting point.