Tesla's Elon Musk may think the future of electric vehicles will one day lie with ultra capacitors, but battery breakthroughs happen nearly every day, so there's reason to hold your bets for now. Case in point, a new article in the Nature Nanotechnology journal details a new nanostructure-based cathode technology developed in Illinois University professor Paul Braun's lab. This new cathode allows extremely fast charging and discharging to the tune of 400C for lithium-ion and 1,000C for NiMH batteries. For those of you who never got into an electric-powered hobby, the "C" simply means the charge (or discharge) rate where 1C equals a charge in one hour. 400C means a full charge in 1/400 of an hour (9 seconds!). Braun figures this translates to practical lithium-ion batteries that could be recharged to 90 percent in two minutes.
With modern lithium-ion batteries on the market today, the ability to charge and discharge rapidly often results in reduced capacity, meaning less range in an EV. This new cathode, however, supposedly does not affect the total capacity, leaving the battery with, as Paul Braun puts, "capacitor-like power with battery-like energy".
It's worth taking a step back at this point and realizing that even if batteries like this were available right now, there is little to no infrastructure in place to allow for recharging at these high power levels. However, having a huge increase in discharge power-density would immediately allow hybrids and plug-ins to have a ton of power available from even a very small pack. This could give new meaning and life to the 'sport hybrid' segment, which we'd be all for.
[Source: Science Daily and Green Car Congress | Image: Jonas Dalidd]