Lithium-ion batteries help make modern electric cars possible, but they're also responsible for those vehicles' limitations.

That's why so much attention is given to improving lithium-ion chemistry, which can help electric cars overcome current limits of range, charging times, and battery lifespan.

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Researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore (via Engadget) say they've developed a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged to 70 percent capacity in two minutes, and last up to 20 years.

That would allow an electric car to fully recharge in around five minutes--about the same time it takes to refuel a gasoline car--and ease concerns over short battery lifespans and the need to replace battery packs.

Battery pack assembly for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car at GM's Brownstown, Michigan, plant

Battery pack assembly for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV electric car at GM's Brownstown, Michigan, plant

These impressive experimental results were achieved by replacing the graphite typically used in lithium-ion battery anodes with a titanium-dioxide gel.

Currently used as a food additive and an ingredient in sunscreen, titanium-dioxide can be reconfigured into nanotubes, which allows chemical reactions in the battery to take place at a faster rate, researchers say, lowering charging times.

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In addition to faster charging, the estimated 20-year lifespan of this new battery could make it possible for some battery packs to outlast the plug-in cars they're installed in.

That would not only reduce the chances of an owner having to shoulder an expensive battery-pack replacement, but also the volume of used packs needing to be recycled or trashed.

2015 Nissan Leaf

2015 Nissan Leaf

Researchers also claim the titanium-dioxide anode is also easier to manufacture than a conventional graphite one, because it doesn't require additives to bind material to the anode.

Large-scale manufacturing is still a long way off, though.

NTU next plans to build a proof-of-concept battery prototype to continue testing the concept, and says the technology is currently being licensed by an unnamed company for production.

However, translating intriguing lab results into a mass-market battery may take some time. From the first promising lab-test results to high-quality, low-cost volume production generally takes five to 10 years.

That means the industry isn't ready to say goodbye to conventional lithium-ion cells just yet.


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