Better Battery-Control Software Could Double Charging Speed: Research

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Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

Lithium-ion battery pack of 2011 Nissan Leaf, showing cells assembled into modules

New battery charge estimation algorithms developed by engineers at the University of California (UC), San Diego, are on the verge of vastly improve the capabilities of current lithium-ion batteries.

The changes center around improving charging times, potentially allowing for batteries that charge twice as fast as those currently available.

Researchers believe that current lithium-ion batteries are over-designed and over-sized.

Existing technology uses fairly crude ways to measure the behavior and health of a battery pack, based solely on voltage and current. Batteries have to be over-engineered to provide a margin of error during charging or discharging, to prevent the packs from prematurely failing or losing capacity.

The new algorithms make the process of monitoring battery packs much more sophisticated, not only allowing the over-engineering to be reduced, but improving the efficiency of charging too.

How it works

Lithium-ion batteries rely on lithium ions passing from the anode to the cathode, generating electricity as they do so.

To know the state of charge, it's important to know how many lithium ions are stored in the anode. Current techniques based on battery voltage make this very difficult to measure. The university likens this to a ticket collector at a movie theater estimating where patrons are sitting purely on the rate people are filtering into the theater.

The new algorithm lets the engineers estimate where the charged particles are, allowing the battery to be charged more efficiently--allowing the ticket collector to fill those empty seats, to use the same analogy.

As the technology allows much better monitoring of the anode, it can also more accurately determine the health of the pack.


UC San Diego, Bosch and battery manufacturer Cobasys are sharing a $9.6 million Department of Energy grant in order to improve battery technology.

The University's share of the grant is $460,000, being used by the research group to develop, test and refine actual automotive battery packs using the new algorithm. One test has seen a pack recharge in as little as 15 minutes.


Essentially, the new methods improve virtually every aspect of modern batteries.

They'll be cheaper, for a start--as much as 25 percent less than current batteries. They'll charge quicker, the battery's size can be reduced, and they can be used with more powerful electric motors. And because the state of the battery is more closely monitored, none of the efficiency improvements come at the expense of safety.

Ultimately, that would mean quicker, cheaper, faster-charging electric cars, using technology little different to the batteries already used.

It's only one of many other battery technologies currently in development, but the bottom line is that electric cars are only set to get better.


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Comments (9)
  1. Don't reduce the size, just increase the range...

  2. Here's an article on a battery that can charge in a minute.

  3. Let us do some math on that.

    1. Technically speaking, the charge rate of the battery can be almost as high as the speed it is discharging. So, a Tesla with 85 KWh battery and 300KW motor can actually charge at 300KW rate. That is a "full charge" in 15 mins. Of course, it doesn't really happen in real life.

    2. Let us take a 24KWh battery for example. 1 min to fully charge a 24KWh battery will require AT LEAST, 24KW*60 = 1,440 KW charger. Assuming "no loss". That is 1.4 MW charger. Assuming 96% efficiency, it is 1,500 KW you would need to supply.

    I don't know about you, I certainly don't want to handle a 1,500 KW charger... @ 500 V, it is 3,000 Amp. The copper wires needs to be the size of your arm...

  4. 1500KW chargers sound a tad impractical but 300KW certainly doesn't. That would be about 75 miles of extra range after a 5 minute refill which would go a long way in making EVs a more practical proposition.

  5. 300KW is still a lot for any public infrastructures to deliver. That is nearly 1/3 of 1 MW.

    I will be surprised to see that happening in 2 decades...

  6. @ Xiaolong, don't forget that the article is on a new and most likely experimental battery, I'm sure if it makes it into a production car many details will be refined by then. I only gave the link because I thought it was interesting.

  7. @CDspeed,

    Sorry, I wasn't "bashing" your article. I just would like to point out some "system level" flaws on cutting edge new technology. Sometimes, people get so caught up in one aspect of the technology and forgot to take a step back and look at the system as a whole.

    It is sure nice to have battery charging as fast as possible. However, the infrastructure does NOT support that. Even in distant future, to support 1,500 KW charging stations in Public would present problems beyond any of the scopes today. You would need a new sub station just for a single EV charger.

    This also shows how much energy it takes to power a car for 100 miles and how densely compact few gallons of gasoline is in energy.

  8. This sounds like a very interesting innovation that could go a long way in solving two major problems of li-ion battery tech: high price and long recharge times.

    Not too thrilled to learn about Cobasys involvement though. They are sort of infamous for their role in suppressing the use of the now obsolete NiMH battery tech in automotive applications on behalf of the Chevron Oil company.

  9. The increasingly smaller and more efficient batteries, the number years to payback will become irrelevant. Today, salesmen around the country are discouraging buyers by telling thme that will never recover until six are more. Then, they steer them an old fashioned gas engine car. This economy is based on supply and as such buyers need to be encouraged, not discouraged by their salesmen. Of even importance and one not even discussed by the sales people is the fact hybrids will do much to make this country energy independent. Moving us away from the traditional ICE and into hybrids, ply ins, and even natural gas vehicles will do much to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil be it from Canada, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, etc.

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