Gas pumpEnlarge Photo
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.
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 JukeEnlarge Photo
“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!”
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”
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.
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.