Oh, Canada!

Hydro-Quebec, a utility company that serves about 8 million residents of America's neighbor to the north, is working on an electric-vehicle charging system that can fully recharge a typical EV in about five minutes, the Canadian blog Wheels reports.

The company, whose research institute has an annual budget of about $100 million, has helped develop a system that can already fully recharge a small lithium-ion cell (with enough power to run a laptop) in one minute. Hydro-Quebec, which has studied batteries for more than 30 years, is working with the U.S. Department of Energy on this project.

The institute is looking to bring down the typical EV recharging time from the 30 minutes required through a fast-charger system to about the same amount of time it takes to fill up a gas tank. Bringing down recharging time is viewed as a key to boosting sales of battery-electric vehicles that so far have a single-charge range of around a third or a quarter of the range of a typical gas-powered car.

Leading the Hydro-Quebec effort is Karim Zaghib, head of the battery-research group at the utility and who has been conducting battery research since 1986. Hydro-Quebec and the U.S. Energy Department expect to secure patents related to the effort by the end of the year.


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  • 55 Comments
      brotherkenny4
      • 3 Years Ago
      The car companies have not produced anything in the correct price range. Get the price down through volume production of vehicles and batteries. That is the key to boosting sales of electric vehicles. Those who want a commuter that can be plugged in at night have not been given a realistic option. That market has not even come close to being started. If you can convince a moron that there is an issue when there really isn't one, have you really proven your point? Of course not. What you have done is convince everyone else that you are dishonest. Unfortunately the morons are the majority.
      Pandabear
      • 3 Years Ago
      It is not hard to do as long as you have a fat enough pipe from the plant to the charging station, and a car that is designed to draw that much current and charge all the cells in parallel. The problem we have is that we didn't have big enough of a grid for everyone to do it at the same time.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Pandabear
        I think the real problem is within the batteries themselves. To much current heats up the batteries and damages them.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          2WM: That's ridiculous. Nothing is 100% efficient. You're going to get heat, the question is only how much. Let's say we're talking about a LEAF battery here. 24kWh. If you charge that 80% in 5 minutes, you're pushing about 240kW at the battery. Even if your cells are 99% efficient, that means you'll be dissipating 2400W in the system. That's a hair dryer and a half.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Depends entirely on the chemistry. a 5 minute charge is a 6C rate. There are production batteries capable of ******* in a 10C rate with no complaint.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          You're not going to dissipate 2.4kW with aluminum fins without getting rather hot. Convective cooling (fins) requires that you get noticeably hotter than the environment so that the heat is carried away quicker. And I think it is ridiculous to think you'll only lose 1% of power in the pack in a 5min charge situation. I'd be surprised if you didn't lose half that in just the cables within the pack carrying the power from the outside of the pack to the cells! And no, that wasn't 2WM's point. 2WM thinks that cells don't produce heat when charged.
          Spec
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          LOL . . . apparently battery technology is obscene. ;-) Those high rate batteries tend to be a expensive. And the issue goes beyond the batteries . . . as you pointed out above, you'd need much bigger connectors and wires to safely carry a lot of current.
          2 Wheeled Menace
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          My bad, it's 12C :( If you have the right cells, you will not produce any heat. If your cells are producing heat while being charged, you're charging them too quickly and damaging them. So adding a cooling system would not be helpful. Toshiba's SCiB is one of the batteries that can be charged at a 10C rate, by the way.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          A 5 minute charge is a 12C rate. Whether 10C or 12C, if you want to charge that fast you need to be able to pull the heat generated out, or else you can only charge for a few seconds. Putting such a cooling system into a pack might not be feasible.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          I think that he really meant "no heat" as an absolute statement. Just no 'significant' heat. Which is true. " The SCiBTM generates little heat even during this fast recharging, eliminating the need for power to cool the battery module." - http://www.toshiba.co.jp/about/press/2011_11/pr1701.htm "You're not going to dissipate 2.4kW with aluminum fins without getting rather hot." Yeah, that is the point. It will get hot... but it can dissipate fast enough so that no damage occurs. Just like the computer processor you're using. Toshiba's SCiB can be charged at a high rate (80% in 15min) without any power being used for fans or liquid cooling. So passive cooling is enough. Now, to get that 3 times faster might require a small fan, or maybe not... it really depends on surface area, heat sinks used and normal airflow. If the pack is well designed, it can be done. This would include spacing and position of the cells and temp monitoring. 5 minute charging without melting anything or damaging the cells.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Rotation, that is 2WM's point. The charging system losses occur at multiple points. So it won't be unheard of to only have 1% loss as Internal Battery resistance for the SCiB cells. (The rest of the loss will be along the cables, in the charge controller and other places which can easily have active cooling.) So 2.4 kw of heat within the battery itself can easily be dissipated safely considering the batter pack's large surface area (and assuming passive cooling such as aluminum fins).
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Pandabear
        The grid won't be a problem. Any facility capable of fast charger that fast, will have a buffer system. Perhaps a bank of cheaper, yet heavier batteries. The grid won't feel any change. Cooling might be a problem for some battery chemistries. But it should be doable.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          Why? Why buffer it? So one person can come by and get a 5 minute charge? That's great for him, but if you want someone else to be able to come by and get a 5 minute charge too, you need a bigger buffer. If you want 12 people to get 5 minute charges in an hour, then your buffering does you no good at all.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          The buffer will have to be as big as the frequency of use. It is a VERY common mistake (fallacy) to think that any battery swapping, fast charging, or even a public charging scheme will be mimicking the current dynamic of centralized refueling of gasoline. Fast Chargers will only need to service drivers headed out of town and only those willing to pay much more for a charge. So I would imagine that even with Hundreds of Thousands of capable EVs on the road.... each Fast Charging station would only see a few customers per day. So imagine... can give a charge to an EV in 5 minutes (at 800 KW power) from their buffered storage. And receive power from the grid at a MUCH slower rate of 100 KW in 40 minutes. I doubt that fast charger customers would visit at a rate greater than 1 vehicle per 40 minutes. At busy sites, double the buffer, double the size of the lot. Whatever. :)
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Joeviocoe
          "Fast Chargers will only need to service drivers headed out of town and only those willing to pay much more for a charge. So I would imagine that even with Hundreds of Thousands of capable EVs on the road.... each Fast Charging station would only see a few customers per day. " Very true !
        2 Wheeled Menace
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Pandabear
        We also didn't have a gasoline infrastructure big enough at one point either. You bought gas cans at the drug store.. not very convenient!
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Yes Nick... the electric grid is already capable of large power loads.... several Megawatts in commercial areas. Don't make the mistake of thinking this would be installed in residential neighborhoods. This will go in strip malls and other places that are built up to handle that kind of power anyway. The infrastructure is already built... they just need to terminate the connections. It's more like a house already wired and built... but the outlets haven't been installed yet.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Nick: try getting 1MW service. Or 5MW service. You'll find the availability is a lot more limited. And even if you do get it, it still loads up the existing lines. Add enough new service and they have to replace and upgrade existing lines. So no, the infrastructure isn't already all built and you just have to terminate the connections. When you add more appliances (outlets is not a good parallel as outlets aren't necessarily used) to your house, you have to sometimes add more circuits.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          I have even mentioned before: If buffering energy onsite is not practical or economical.. Fast chargers could be placed directly onto residential substations. And you probably drive past several of them each day during your commute... they are where the HV lines come down into a fenced off area the size of a two family home with transformers and such. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/90/Electricity_Grid_Schematic_English.svg They run at about 3 MW each. So a 0.32 MW draw won't overload the equipment. Sure, just flipping the switch won't be good for the grid balance... but luckily, it is at a perfect location to utilize smart-grid technology. The distribution control center will be aware of your car approaching the fast charger (either by the car signaling or sensors around the charger). The grid will adjust power production just as they do currently for when hundreds of people turn on their appliances after returning from work. A 10% fluctuation in that residential node should not be much to handle.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Rotation, finding 1 MW or 5 MW service won't happen for a single user... that is for entire commercial complexes (i.e. strip malls). Several clients are serviced from that... A Walmart, a Home Depot, a few dozen small shops, etc. For instance, a single high rise office building with 250,000 square feet, 800 occupants, and operating 55 hours per week, consumes almost 1.4 MW of peak power for 8 hours a day. http://www.eia.gov/emeu/cbecs/cbecs2003/detailed_tables_2003/2003set10/2003pdf/c14.pdf http://www.iluvtrees.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/iltofficebuildingprofile.pdf But all I am saying is that the HV power lines that come down from the main line, into a distribution node, and service that entire complex or office building, can easily handle several MW of power. That being said. A "Five Minute Charger" (5MC), won't be using anywhere near that kind of power. A 5MC, assuming for a vehicle with a 24 kwh pack and 90% charging efficiency, would draw about 320 KW of power. A 5MC would most certainly have a buffer of stationary Batteries or Supercaps (or if Beacon Power is right, a 16,000 rpm Flywheel)... to buffer about 28 kwh of energy. Then the charge station would only draw about 28 KW of power over the course of 1 hour... which is very easy to handle for a commercial zone. Yes, a special circuit would be required... but in the grand scheme of the whole regional grid... and new circuit from the strip mall's or building's distribution panel is still considered "terminating the connections".
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Oops. Hit return. Installing an electric charge station is like installing a gas station with a pipeline to it instead of trucking the gas there. How often does that happen? Even if it does, it happens near to the source of gasoline, because running a pipeline (or wire) is less cost-effective when you are further away from the source.
          Nick
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Rotation But then there's already a power grid available.
          Rotation
          • 3 Years Ago
          @2 Wheeled Menace
          Yeah, but installing the first gas station didn't involve running wires across town. You just loaded the gas up onto a truck, drove it over and stored it in the gas station tank. Installing an electric charging station is more like instal
      DaveMart
      • 3 Years Ago
      As others have said, this all seems to have been done already. A company I was not aware of until I looked into this is Microvast, which is based in the US but produces and operates in China. It's batteries are good up to 15C: http://www.diyelectriccar.com/forums/showthread.php?p=289070 What's more, it is already building ultra fast charging stations for buses: http://evworld.com/news.cfm?newsid=28113 'The 3,200 kW, 2,065 m² charging station has six (6) 400kW individual chargers; each charger fills the bus battery in 5 to 10 minutes, functioning like a conventional gas station as opposed to a typical “Park & Charge” charging station.' It's not clear how cumbersome the charging cord is, as for a bus you can use industrial grade equipment which take a bit of manhandling, which would not be suitable for a car, but just the same it seems that we are pretty well at the 'been there, done that' stage for the stuff this researcher is talking about, although no doubt improvements are possible. As others have remarked there are also other batteries capable of a 12C charge rate, although this seems to be the champion.
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @DaveMart
        Eventually, the fast chargers might go away from something a driver must connect... but imagine a set of probes that you drive toward (with alignment bevels and sensors) that automatically open a port on the car, protective sleeves that retract and all that. If we can refuel bombers in mid-air, we can connect a fast charger without much human intervention.
      Greg
      • 3 Years Ago
      But does such rapid charging cause damage to the batteries? Typically, batteries produce heat when charged--if they are charged that quickly, do they overheat?
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Greg
        the more capable the less hot. for instance A123 cells need no cooling at all. even if you race them. only cooling required would be if you are in an environment where the heat from the surroundings is so high as to cause faster aging. like parked in arizona sun. if the chemistry is more agile it can handle more. it's not just a matter of forcing it harder
      Archonic
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why does every article involving Canada involve start it off with "Oh, Canada!" and then refer to Canada as "America's neighbor to the north"? Seriously, every article does that. The technology is what's important here, not the fact that it's being developed in Canada. Nationalized writing seems so dated, especially online.
      Peter
      • 3 Years Ago
      All promise no method or approach given. I don't doubt the intent, but if they get this holy grail you would wonder if it would take specific electrodes to handle the bandwidth, specific chemistry to handle the C, and geometry of the pack to handle the cooling issues.
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 3 Years Ago
      1.21 gigawatts! There are battery chemistries that can do this now, they're just not in any production cars at the moment. I do wonder what a 100-200kW-capable fast charge plug would look like though... LOL
        EZEE
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        1.21 Gigawatts? Great Scott!
        JakeY
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        J1772-DC is already capable of 100kW. It was proposed to have it go up to 200kW (600V, 400A).
          Timo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          Make that 85kWh. (Edit, edit, coffee, home...ZZZ)
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          Eventually, the fast chargers might go away from something a driver must connect... but imagine a set of probes that you drive toward (with alignment bevels and sensors) that automatically open a port on the car, protective sleeves that retract and all that. If we can refuel bombers in mid-air, we can connect a fast charger without much human intervention.
          Joeviocoe
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          The article states, "recharge a typical EV in about five minutes" I think they mean something like 24 kwh. So maybe 0.32 MW
          Timo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          Which is 0.2 Megawatt. Gigawatt is thousand megawatts. You need huge voltage and/or huge current to get 1.2 GW. Huge current means too heavy cables unless you use several, and high voltage increases risk of electricity jumping to kill you. I too wonder what that plug would look like.
          Timo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @JakeY
          85kW in five minutes is only 1.02MW though. (edit-button, where are you). That is doable.
        Spec
        • 3 Years Ago
        @2 Wheeled Menace
        Yeah, like wireless charging, this is one of those 'it can be done but is it worth the added cost?' things. What we need is cheap batteries. Fast charging is nice but we really need LOW COST!
          SNP
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          If that range is
          Marco Polo
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          Ezee With charging under 5 minutes, range isn't much of an issue.
          Dan Frederiksen
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          low cost is a matter of choice. it has been possible for 6 years. we do need quick charge. a 5-10 minute refill is worlds apart from 3 hours. it takes the EV from quite useful to almost universally useful. it's very important 200kW is not a problem at all. 500V 400A. you can carry 400A through a damp shoelace. or 12mm copper wire. that's thinner than your pinky finger
          EZEE
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Spec
          if we have, n fact beaten charge times, that would then leave us with range and cost. Would be nice for one of those battery ideas to finally see the light of day...the IBM, or Toyota...although I think the IBM already claimed fast recharge...
      Jon
      • 3 Years Ago
      So are they working on battery tech or supply side tech?
      Spec
      • 3 Years Ago
      Battery research from a Canadian utility? OK. Where ever the solution comes from, I'm all for it.
      goodoldgorr
      • 3 Years Ago
      It cost 100 x less for an hydrogen infrastructure then a fast charger and level 2 electrical charging infrastructure. There is no known problems for hydrogen infrastructure and there is a multitude of problems for bev public charging stations.
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        you were doing so well gorr. what you said is 100% wrong.
          goodoldgorr
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Dan Frederiksen
          An hydrogen station cover 350 miles radius so it take 5 minutes to refill and you can drive approx 350 miles . With regenerative breaking and the work of the small battery included in fuelcell car then it can goes to 400 miles. With a 30 minutes recharge with bev fast charging and if the car is a kit car then a fast charge is impossible because it run with lead acid batteries so 4 hours level 2 charge with 40 miles max because it's the range of a kit car at 45 mph max so 40/5 multiply by 400/40 = 100 approx plus the acid released in the air plus the weight and plus the low speed = 500. In a leaf then they recommend that fast charging should be avoided so an 12 low level charge plus no charger on the road equal 80 miles divided by 2 = 40 miles radius divided by 12 hours to recharge= 100 x approx. Also the resale value of a nissan leaf is approx 5 000$ because sales are plummeting at the speed of blogs.
        Joeviocoe
        • 3 Years Ago
        @goodoldgorr
        ^ what he said... plus #sarcasm
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 3 Years Ago
      100 million dollars is a pretty nice sized research budget. I could probably get us antigravity and interstellar travel for less than 1% of that budget but such is the folly of man. as I've said a couple of times you can add 40% charge to a 4C battery like A123 in 6 minutes. and if the car is lean you can get that power level from the already established chademo standard. it's not really tech we are missing, it's implementation that is not overtly stupid. it's worth noting that this article is about battery tech, not a charger which would be trivial. but a 5 minute recharge is just 10C. not that hard to do, indeed I expect A123 can trivially make such a cell. and I imagine that A123's formula 1 cells can take charge well in excess of 10C, maybe 100C. they allegedly discharge at around 500C but maybe hydro has developed something relevant. maybe.
      Anne
      • 3 Years Ago
      Many people here expressing doubts the cooling capacity: let me enlighten those with a small calculations. Specific heat varies widely between different substances, but an average of 1 J/g/K seems like a good assumption. Let's furthermore assume that fast charging occurs with a 10% loss. So filling up a 24 kWh battery produces around 2.5 kWh of heat. This is 9 MJ. The LEAF battery weighs 300 kg. That works out to 30 J per g of battery, inducing a temp change of 30 degrees C. If you start charging at a battery temp of 30 C, you end with 60 C. Most batteries are able to handle that. Although it is true that battery degradation occurs faster at higher temperatures, it depends for how long they are kept at that temperature. As long as you cool the battery back down to more a reasonable temperature after the fast charge, I don't see a big problem. Better batteries might have a lower internal resistance and produce less heat.
        Archonic
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Anne
        Don't forget that many EV configurations (especially to-be-released) have water cooling which would serve as as excellent thermal buffer with it's 1.0 specific heat and quickly dissipate heat from the battery. I would imagine that thermal issues with fast charging has more to do with the heat generated at the terminals - the battery doesn't uniformly heat up. Increased resistance as it heats up sure doesn't help either.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Anne
        Thanks for the calculations. As a prospective Zoe owner, you may be interested in this news item: http://www.thechargingpoint.com/news/Renault-Zoe-breaks-electric-car-distance-record.html 'The Renault Zoe is arguably the most highly anticipated of Renault’s four production pure-electric vehicles, thanks to its cute styling and an impressive range of 125 miles, as per the New European Drive Cycle. And now, to underline its distance-driving deftness, Renault has used the Zoe to set a new world record for electric miles driven in 24 hours, according to unofficial reports. France Mobilité Électrique reports that the Zoe managed 1,600km (994.19 miles) over the 24-hour period, which beats the previous record of 1,250km (776.71 miles).' And: 'The 87hp hatchback was fast-charged nine times during the event, adds Automobile Propre. Zoe can be charged at three speeds: ‘standard’ charging using a wallbox at home takes from six to nine hours; ‘accelerated’ charging takes one hour; ‘fast’ charging takes just 30 minutes.' That is a little disappointing on the range, as running the numbers and taking out the 9 charges at 30 minutes each, it got 100 miles per charge assuming that it started fully charged so it used 10 'tank fulls' The speed on this perfectly circular track works out to 50 mph, or 80kph, so 100 miles per charge is not great under these ideal driving conditions. This is preliminary information, so the figures await confirmation. If the supposed 9 recharges in fact includes the initial charge, then the range goes up to 111 miles per charge, although average speed drops marginally.
          Anne
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          To expand a bit further. If they did 9 fast charges to 80% and started with a full battery, that works out to a range of 195 km for a full battery. (195 + 195 * .8 * 9) = 1599). Also, the average speed might have been a bit higher than 80 km/h due to time loss of deceleration and acceleration. You have to come to a stop before you can charge.
          Anne
          • 3 Years Ago
          @DaveMart
          Thanks for the info. My +1 disappeared in the bit bucket, no luck for you today :-) I think things are better than you suggest. The fast charge only fills the battery to 80%.
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