As climate change threatens the stability of our planet, lessening our dependence on fossil fuels to reduce greenhouse gas emissions becomes increasingly important. In addition to concerns over climate change, analysts predict long-term uncertainty over oil supplies. Oil will become much more scarce over the next few decades, and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers predicts that oil production will be down to 20% of what it is now by 2040.
Because of this, there will not be enough petroleum-based vehicle fuels for cars. The auto industry is preparing for this by investing in electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, the Chevy Volt, the Ford Focus EV, and many more. Electric cars provide a viable solution to this problem, but one reason many people do not want to purchase one is because of how long they take to charge--a minimum of 3.5 hours for the Tesla Roadster electric sports car, up to 8 hours for cars like the Nissan Leaf.
Researchers at South Korea’s Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology Interdisciplinary School and LG Chem, a leading supplier of lithium-ion batteries in the country, may have come up with a solution to this problem. The new new batteries charge 30 times faster than conventional batteries and have the potential to charge 120 times faster with further development. This could let people driving electric cars recharge in the same time it takes to fill a tank of gas in a gasoline powered car.
In conventional lithium-ion batteries, powdered nanoparticles are layered to create a dense structure that can store and give off energy. The new battery design will be in the form of a solution that contains carbonized graphite, forming a dense network connecting the electrodes of the battery. This will allow all the electrodes in the battery to charge at the same time, whereas current lithium-ion batteries can only charge from the outside in.
For the auto industry, this new battery technology could give electric cars the functionality they need to bridge the gap between energy efficiency and functionality. The only thing lacking in making electric cars competitive with conventional cars is infrastructure. Without common places to recharge, like gas stations, drivers will still have problems completing longer trips. Faster charging times for electric cars will make it easier for gas stations to add the ability to recharge them because they will only take minutes, not hours to charge.
These new batteries can also have an impact outside the auto industry. They would be extremely useful in electronic devices like mobile phones or in anything that needs to recharge, and they could increase the popularity of rechargeable standard batteries such as AA and AAA because they will recharge extremely fast.
Overall, these new batteries have the potential to make a massive impact on how we use batteries. Almost everyone uses something with a battery daily, and an increase recharge speed 30 fold can make a massive difference in both everyday life and the world around us.