EV batteries refuse to stay out of the news at the moment, as a team of engineers and researchers from the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) claim to have found the “holy grail of battery research.” This was presumably phrased in such a way as not to raise anybody’s hopes too much.
The specific breakthrough is a new kind of lithium battery design based around black phosphorus and graphite, which serves to vastly increase charging time over standard battery models. Whereas a regular car might take between an hour and a day to recharge, the new material enabled the battery to refill itself by more than 80% in under ten minutes. And while such fast-charging batteries exist already, it’s usually compensated for by a drop in maximum charge and lifespan, something that theoretically wouldn’t be the case with these new black phosphorus models. The whole thing is outlined in this very dense academic paper from the journal Science, released on October 9th.
“The combination of high energy, high [charging] rate, and long cycle life is the holy grail of battery research, which is determined by one of the key components of the battery: the electrode materials,” went a statement from USTC professor Hengxing Ji.
“We aim to search for an electrode material that can make a dent in performance metrics from laboratory research and can hold the promise to stand with the industrial production techniques and requirements.”
Though promising, the truth is that it’s still probably too early to be certain whether this is a real holy grail or one of those trick fast-aging cups from the end of The Last Crusade. As we’ve seen time and time again over the last few years, developing such tech is only half of the battle when it comes to widespread EV acceptance – the second half is mass-producing and implementing this technology in the next generation of EVs. Simply sourcing battery materials is proving a struggle for even the biggest EV companies, and while charging-rates are indeed an issue when it comes to the average Tesla or other EV, there’s bigger concerns that people have: price, accessibility, availability of recharge stations and more.
Still, let’s not degrade or denigrate what could be a very useful discovery in the long run. Not every breakthrough has to be a world-changing headline grabber, and while calling anything “the holy grail” feels like a set-up for disappointment, bringing recharge rates down by such a huge amount is certainly something the USTC might feel proud of.