Five-Minute Full Charge? The Promise Of Indium-Anode EV Batteries

tesla supercharger next to a servo

New battery tech could charge an EV in the time it takes to fill with petrol.

Researchers at Cornell University claim their new lithium battery design is capable of fully charging an EV in less than five minutes.

If they can commercialise this tech (a big if), that would make filling up a car with electrons as quick as filling up with dinosaur juice. That would be incredible.

This leap in battery storage technology from Cornell University is undoubtedly exciting, and hats off to them for pushing the envelope. Yet, there’s a compelling case to be made that the current state of EV tech already hits the mark. For instance, I’m waiting on delivery of a Model 3 that claims a range of over 600km, capable of adding 280 km in just 15 minutes. Personally I’m happy to stop every 2.5 – 3 hours for 15 minutes. That’s a threefold improvement in charging speed compared to my 4-year-old Model S, which can take 45 minutes to top up on a big trip.

SciTechDaily reports that the secret sauce behind the Cornell researchers’ rapid charging battery design lies in the use of indium as a battery anode. Indium possesses two key attributes: a remarkably low migration energy barrier and a moderate exchange current density.

  • Low Migration Energy Barrier: Think of the migration energy barrier as a hurdle that ions (tiny charged particles) have to jump over during the charging process. A low barrier means the ions can move more freely and quickly, speeding up the charging process.
  • Moderate Exchange Current Density: This is akin to the rate at which ions can “dock” onto the anode (the battery’s negative terminal) and start storing energy. A moderate rate ensures a steady and efficient flow, contributing to faster charging without compromising battery life.

Indium anodes not only pave the way for batteries that charge in minutes, but also promise better longevity over thousands of cycles.

However, the journey from laboratory to market is not without its hurdles. While indium’s performance metrics are promising, its weight and practicality for widespread application are questionable. The research team sees this as an opportunity rather than a setback. The quest for alternative lightweight materials that mirror indium’s desirable characteristics is on, with computational chemistry and generative AI tools expected to play a pivotal role in identifying new candidates.

The Cornell research paper is here.

About Finn Peacock

I'm a Chartered Electrical Engineer, Solar and Energy Efficiency nut, dad, and the founder and CEO of SolarQuotes.com.au. I started SolarQuotes in 2009 and the SolarQuotes blog in 2013 with the belief that it’s more important to be truthful and objective than popular. My last "real job" was working for the CSIRO in their renewable energy division. Since 2009, I’ve helped over 700,000 Aussies get quotes for solar from installers I trust. Read my full bio.

Comments

  1. I also think it’s not well understood that the range of ICEs is determined more by the refuelling network. You could make that range much smaller or much larger, I think the range they ended up with was what allowed 20 million vehicles to refuel at only 7000 servos, without huge queues. It’s not a property of the technology itself.

    And the stats reveal the astronomical network costs of maintaining that range.

    1) 65 million tonnes of imported fuel is transported around the country, every year. Mostly by road.
    2) That fuel is transported over 15 billion kilometres.
    3) There are over 2.6 million tanker journeys every year. That’s more than 7200 per DAY, on average.

    • For me its not the time it takes to recharge, I’m happy to wait 20 to 30 minutes charging. It would really be annoying to stop and find none of the chargers are working or they’re all being used. So we’ve kept our petrol car for long trips until the charging network is up to scratch.

  2. Very big hurdles indeed, though interesting nonetheless.
    Let’s say a 75kWh battery pack charged in five minutes:
    5 mins is just one twelfth of an hour, so ignoring losses that would be 12x 75 = 900kW required for supply, charger and battery cables.

    Hmmm. Why am I a skeptic.

    I honestly can’t think of any time that my four plus year old model 3 hasn’t charged fast enough to keep us quite happy.

    • Trucks are the logical starting point for this technology if and when it becomes commercially available. With 900kWh batteries it would be very attractive.

      • George Kaplan says

        I thought the idea for trucks was to drop their batteries, replace them with freshly charged ones, and keep going? Perhaps I’m misremembering but I thought SQ had such a story not too many years ago.

        On the other hand since EV trucks can only do a couple hundred kilometres or so before their batteries flatline, and that Melbourne to Sydney is 877 km, while Sydney to Brisbane is 917 km, unless there’s 3 or 4 battery swap sites along the way, they simply won’t make it.

        By contrast a diesel truck can do such runs without stopping until it drops its load off, refuels, and reload for a run back … though some down time for a driver to sleep, visit the gents, have a bite to eat etc might also be required. Of course if driverless truck technology takes off … : – P

        • Anthony Bennett says

          Hi George,

          You’re thinking of Janus Trucks who are running battery swap systems in Australia. Not only are they an order of magnitude faster to swap batteries than pump hundreds of litres of diesel, they’ll be able to charge on solar and offer grid services as well.

          Freight is still better and safer on trains, which are pretty easy to electrify.

          • The 3/4 axle trucks operating in and around the cities are the target as their weight is critical.

            Articulated trucks and road trains are logical for battery swaps and a great number of them operate on trunk routes making battery swaps logical.

            Think about agitators, container trucks, tippers, tilt trays and refrigerated goods trucks.

            The huge variety of trucks will make battery swaps problematic as any swap system is based on a standard battery.

            A rapid charge battery will find a significant market in these applications.

        • Geoff Miell says

          George Kaplan: – “On the other hand since EV trucks can only do a couple hundred kilometres or so before their batteries flatline, and that Melbourne to Sydney is 877 km, while Sydney to Brisbane is 917 km, unless there’s 3 or 4 battery swap sites along the way, they simply won’t make it.

          It seems to me you have no idea of what’s possible. Janus Electric FAQ includes:

          How long does the battery module last?
          Currently, the Janus Electric battery lasts between 400 to 600kms with a Battery life of up to 8 years.

          How does the charging work?
          It takes 4 minutes to swap out a Janus Electric Battery (as opposed to 20 minutes to refuel a diesel-powered vehicle). The batteries are placed in a charge station located in key locations and swapped out for a ready-to-go battery located in the charge station. The Janus Electric software manages the time availability of charged batteries.

          https://www.januselectric.com.au/

          George Kaplan: – “By contrast a diesel truck can do such runs without stopping until it drops its load off, refuels, and reload for a run back…

          …until diesel fuel becomes too expensive and/or too scarce.
          Evidence/data I see indicates it’s only a matter of time.
          https://www.solarquotes.com.au/blog/josh-612-per-year-bills/#comment-1642605

  3. Gtven the same charge will go in for a shorter period is the present infrastructure capable of the huge current required I wonder.

  4. Bob Johnson says

    Fully charged in 5 minutes? Man, that would be impressive! Let’s do some maths. Suppose you are charging just 60kWh (a medium size EV battery). To do that in 5 minutes would require a power of 720kW, but with an efficiency of around 90% lets say 800kW. Suppose a charging voltage of 400V, which seems enough for me, then the average current would be two thousand amps. Like I said that would be impressive. I’m happy for someone to prove my maths is incorrect. Theoretically possible, I suppose.

    • Erik Christiansen says

      And if losses are to be in the order of 1%, that’s 8kW @ 800 kW charging rate.
      At 400V, that allows 2 milliohms of resistance in the entire charger – rectifiers, connectors, and cable. Would the design go for a fat silver cable, still manually handled, or a robot arm?

      It could provide a good supply of hot water for bulk use.

      I’m at the opposite end; 1 kw granny charger until the solar installation goes up in a couple of weeks, for a 7-fold increase in charging rate. Can’t come soon enough.

  5. Ian Thompson says

    So, approaching 1 MegaWatt power drain from the grid, per car – admittedly only for a few minutes until another EV pulls up.

    Our small local Servo usually has about 8-10 cars filling with ‘dinosaur juice’ SIMULTANEOUSLY at certain times of day. We must have 10 similar Servos in our local area. This works out at something like a 100 MW supply required.
    I’d think Perth would have at least about 100 times the number of Servos of our local area – maybe more. Now we are at 10 GigaWatts! About the same as the Total power generation of our larger States! Possibly a little less due to averaging.

    How much copper to carry that possible peak demand? How many BESSs to produce that power output? All just to deal with peak demand, vastly underutilised much of the time so very expensive – like power lines from intermittent renewables.

    Obviously, we would instead need charging rosters, inconvenient as that may be. Or, only provide a very limited number of these quick for those that need it (at a heavy cost premium).

    Appears impractical. However, I do like the hopeful increase in battery life.

    • Finn Peacock says

      The demand for charging is not comparable to petrol bowsers, 90% of charging is done at home. You can’t fill your petrol car at home. So divide the demand for bowsers by 10. Still a lot of MW, but 10x more manageable.

    • Nathan holt says

      I would just add they would probably have some sort of capacitor system if they were doing that as just regularly spiking the grid like that just isn’t viable widescale. which would allow them to usually throttle charging the capacitor then dump the capacitor into the vehicle when it hooks up.

    • Also dont forget that demand charging will be introduced with this sort of technology – sure you want to fill up on your way home at 6PM – it will be twice as expensive as later at nigth and 4 times the price of doing it at luncthime.

      But the upside is you will not pull up to a servo to find 4 of its pumps unavailable because a tanker has arrvie late and is refilling them in peak hour !

      The obvious location for these types of ultra fast chargers will be on long distance routes and it will be routine for them to be backed by a 3 megawatt tesla megapack.

      The megapack provides distributed grid support resources in a VPP style arrangement as needed and sips power from the grid to recharge ready for any cars that require it.

      As the charging network evolves we will see realtime stats of who is charging, how long they will be there for and what output the charging centre is capable of providing – and probably the price per KWh – so a driver can make an informed decision – drop in here at 10c a Kwh in the middle of the day even though i still have a 50% charge in the battery

      The way people think will evolve – and it will be driven by the economic incentives that almost free power in the middle of the day provides.

      Craig

      • Power may be almost free in the middle of the day as you say but you have not explained how we are going to provide 1Mw per car for multiple cars at a service station when these new 5 minute batteries come out.

        • You are right. Charging at these levels seems unlikely and the ‘servo’ would likely limit charge speed where 8 cars were all charging. I will point out though that with my EV I’ve charged outside a home maybe a half dozen times last year. EV’s arent for everyone but for suburbanite professional workers they are pretty nice.

  6. Steven Fennell says

    I am 64 and hope to see this before I shuffle off this mortal coil

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