Reduce the price of electric cars: fast charging vs. heavy and expensive batteries

To solve the typical doubts about range and charging infrastructure of those buyers who are hesitant to purchase an electric car, many car manufacturers have resorted to implement ever larger battery packs. Thus, they reduce the need for a very dense recharging network, but in return increase the cost of vehicles and the weight, which goes against energy efficiency. A recent report from Reuters highlights that some new companies are adopting a different strategy with an eye toward a more advanced recharge scenario.

Start-ups like Nyobolt and Echion Technologiesbased in the UK, or the US Group14 Technologiesgive priority to recharge time on autonomy, as highlighted by information from Reuters. Its objective is to produce battery cells capable of admitting very high charging powers, which would reduce downtime at charging points. This strategy allows reduce production costs since the battery, the most expensive component of an electric car, could be smaller.

Nyobolt is developing materials for the anode based on niobium oxide that reduce the loading time to a few minutes, according to the startup. echion it is also developing niobium anodes, a material currently used to strengthen steel and mined mainly in Brazil and Canada. Initially, Echion plans to use its battery cells in commercial vehicles, though by 2025 it would have them ready for passenger cars.

Any technology that reduces battery size would help reduce costs and environmental impact by reducing the need for rare materials like nickel and cobalt.

VISION EQXX übertrifft eigenen Effizienzrekord beim Sommer-Roadtrip von Stuttgart nach Silverstone (GB) mit 1,202 Kilometern mit einer einzigen Batterieladung // VISION EQXX breaks own efficiency record on 1,202 km summer road trip from Stuttgart (Germany) to Silverstone (UK) on a single battery charger
The Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX covered 1,202 kilometers on a single charge of its battery.

In the coming years, automakers, and thus buyers, are likely to are forced to choose between large battery packs with basic or low-tech cells, or smaller packs with state-of-the-art cells that support high-power charging. This second option will allow the weight of electric vehicles to be controlled and will reduce dependence on scarce raw materials. However, neither of these two paths is cheap.

Two current examples

On the other hand, it’s not just about the batteries. As in the case of Mercedes-Benz Vision EQXX concept the goal of many manufacturers is focused on overall efficiency. Recently, a prototype of this car traveled 1,202 kilometers on a single charge from Stuttgart, Germany, to the Silverstone race track in the United Kingdom. When the test was over there was still enough battery left to go around the track a few times.

fast charging electric cars batteries large capacity-interior2
The BMW iX with dual-chemistry Our Next Energy batteries will reach 1,000 kilometers of autonomy.

Mixing different chemical components is another possibility. The company Our Next Energy (ONE), based in Michigan, claims it will achieve 1,000 kilometers of range in a prototype of the BMW iX equipped with a dual-chemistry battery pack. This option would greatly reduce the more expensive and complex chemicals to obtain, but would not reduce the weight of the assembly.

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