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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