Oil Giant BP Develops Battery Cell You Can Refill At The Pump

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The largest problem facing electric cars today is the amount of time it takes to recharge the battery pack.  Unlike filling a gas tank which can take a few minutes, even fast charging direct current charging stations can take up to 30 minutes to replace lost charge. 

Which raises the question of what would happen if you could recharge an electric car as fast as you could fill a gas tank?  

While recharging an electric car in a few minutes is already possible using a battery swapping station like those ran by Better Place, scientists in the U.K. are working with oil and gas giant B.P. to develop an electric car battery that can be recharged just like a gasoline car can.

As part of a joint project between the University of Norwich and the infamous oil giant, a new electric vehicle battery has been developed which could revolutionize electric car travel forever. 

Liquid Electrolyte

Instead of creating a battery with a permanent electrolyte (the part of the battery through which free ions can move from cathode to anode) the researchers have developed a procedure called the Liquid Electrolyte Transference System (LETS). 

First, LETS takes the depleted electrolyte out of the battery using a special drain plug. Then, similar to an oil change in a car, fresh fully-charged electrolyte is added. 

2011 Nissan Juke

2011 Nissan Juke

Enlarge Photo

Quick, Simple

“The system is absolutely revolutionary” said BP spokesperson Ida Mandamp. “It allows us to let customers visit our gas stations worldwide and replenish their electric vehicle battery packs without spending hours at a a charging station. It’s so simple!”

Existing Infrastructure

Ms Mandamp told reporters at Norwich press conference earlier today that existing gas pumps can be retrofitted with ease to take advantage of electric car customers. 

“We’ve designed LETS to make use of existing gas infrastructure. Existing gas pumps can be retrofitted with everything needed to safely handle the electrolyte, so refilling is as familiar a process as possible. The only modification we’ve had to make is to include an automated drain system to recover spent electrolyte”

Early Tests

The first public trial of the system is due to go live on the main freeway between London, England and the commuter town of Folsdsyke, some 180 miles North of the capital.

A fleet of modified 2011 Nissan Jukes will be taking part in the test and include an electrolyte-filler cap in the traditional gas-filler location. 

Future Technology

As battery swapping, fast charging and electrolyte swapping all enter the marketplace there has to be a single winner. But with masses of gas stations everywhere we can’t help but think electrolyte swapping has the edge. After all, waiting to fill up has become an intrinsic part of modern life, and one we wouldn’t want to miss.

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Comments (19)
  1. I think I'd heard about this technology this time last year, I'd hoped that they'd be further on by now, I guess we'll have to wait another year.

  2. You're fooling no one here...

  3. Nice April Fools... but are you aware that this technology is actually being developed? I saw a prototype of the system about five years ago. At the time, it was 50-50 whether or not it was likely to be viable and I've lost touch with the project since, so I don't know the current status.

  4. i guess this is how the oil companies hope to keep control. this process eliminates the ability for a person to do his own recharging. hopefully it does not catch on.

  5. This system should not impact you charging your EV @ home. It's simply an additional alternative. If you run low on electrons to get home, swap some electrolyte enroute home, and then finish charging at home over night. Win-win!!

  6. This system should not impact you charging your EV @ home. It's simply an additional alternative. If you run low on electrons to get home, swap some electrolyte enroute home, and then finish charging at home over night. Win-win!!

  7. oh - i see. will you still be able to charge these batteries by plugging in at home ?

  8. I love the Nissan Juke reference...it's the kind of clown car that seems to be designed as an April fools prank itself except somebody at Nissan didn't get the memo...

  9. nikki, is this an april fool article ?

  10. This can be done with Vanadium redox batteries, but the power density is not great. Also heard something similar with Zinc-air batteries, the zinc can be replenished. The trick is getting the electrolyte to flow easily (most batteries use gel or paste electrolytes).

  11. Everyone is peeing in puddles, the future of the motor industry is water, modified water.
    I rest my case.

  12. Everyone is peeing in puddles, the future of the motor industry is water, modified water, H20. It works we have been injecting it into cars since the 1970's

  13. I don't know what type of technology is used here, but if the "battery" can also be charged by plugging in, (such as at home), and the electrolyte exchange is an option for distance driving then I can see this being a very viable solution.

  14. There is no need to replace the electrolyte in the batteries; I have a solution that I have been working on for the last five years that replenishes the soluable positive anode with common sand. You don't need a service station at all; all you need is common beach sand. In the battery, the anode solitifies under use into glass in the form of a screw; so you unscrew the anode in the 50 cells and fill up the anode container with sand. It takes about five minutes and you have another 300 miles of service. I call it the "UYB," "Unscrew Youself Battery."

  15. #7 ev enthusiast - Not if BP can help it, LOL.

  16. Dead battery? Just refill it!!
    Many problems here (when available this kind of battery, what range, upgrading gas stations to support it..)
    But the number 1 problem is that it's a battery!
    And batteries for EV's costs $18,000
    Thus EV's cost $30,000 and up
    so as long as EV's cost more that $15,000 sales of EV's over the next 10 years will be limited to 2% worldwide. That's the case with the Prius, in 13 years, it captured less than 2% of the worldwide car market even though they are only $4,000 more expensive than gasoline cars.
    Better Place offers a total solution including ecars cheaper than petrol cars. The Better Place Renault Fluence Z.E. at 205,000 Danish Kroner costs LESS than a 5-door Honda Civic at 219 900 Danish Kroner and around the price of a Jazz 1.4 Comfort i-Shift so its like you pay for a small bubble car
    and you get a big sedan.
    Better Place goes live in 9 months with cars and infrastructure in place plus they have already sold 70,000 cars.

  17. Shai Agasi:
    The (Toyota hybrid) Prius was about €3,000 more expensive than the Corolla. That €3,000 meant that even though it was extremely successful perception-wise, it was less than 2% of the cars sold for the 13 years it was on the market. Only €3,000 more expensive. Why wouldn't it sell more, given that we all want to save the planet?
    Make an electric car €3,000 cheaper than a gasoline car, you'll see the exact opposite effect.

  18. I call it the "UYB," "Unscrew Youself Battery."
    Hey Lad, are you a Uber, too? =:)

  19. Hmmmm how convenient and they will probably charge $50 per fill up there go your savings out the window. I hope electric vehicles are better than all the useless rechargeable tools I have that no longer work. I would hate to be halfway to work and have my vehicle croak.

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