Late last year I stated that I believed that 2017 would be the tipping point year for electric cars. With improvements in motor technologies and batteries, electric cars became a viable alternative with a range comparable to that of gasoline and diesel powered cars. Newcomers (Tesla) and established car manufacturers (Volvo) had already made commitments to 100% electric cars.

However, the main obstacle to the wide adoption of electric cars, and the ultimate replacement of fossil-fuel cars, remains the charging time. While fuel-based cars take minutes to fill, electric car batteries take hours to charge. It is not viable to stop at a gas station and wait a few hours until the battery is fully charged. Alternatives such as battery-swapping technologies and smart roads that can charge the batteries wirelessly were considered, but charging time remains that major issue.

Until now, that it.

The Drexel University nanomaterials group, in collaboration with Prof. Barsoum, discovered a material called MXene, a nano-technology substance, which could be used as "Ion highway" electrodes in batteries.

Until now, the two high-capacity alternatives were chemical batteries ("regular" batteries) and supercapacitors. The former can hold more charge (thus giving a car longer range), while the latter can charge much faster. Yury Gogotsi, the lead researcher in the team, stated in an article on New Atlas that "This paper refutes the widely accepted dogma that chemical charge storage, used in batteries and pseudocapacitors, is always much slower than physical storage used in electrical double-layer capacitors, also known as supercapacitors."

Maria Lukatskaya, The first named author of the paper describing the development and testing of MXene, which was published at the Nature Energy Journal, compared the new 2D MXene electrode to a multi-lane, high-speed highway, where all parts of the battery could be charged in parallel, and thus in seconds. In fact, the researchers claimed that they demonstrated charging of batteries with Thin MXene electrode in hundredths of a second.

Imagine a car battery charging station that could charge the battery full in seconds, instead of hours.

Once this battery electrode technology is viable, the next obstacle might be the charging current required to charge this battery. If, according to a Tesla Roadster battery takes 54 kWh (kilowatt-hour) of capacity, then charging it in one minute could require over 3 megawatt. Just sayin'...

Published on: Jul 19, 2017