MIT researchers find inexpensive EV charging technology solution

Opponents of electric vehicles (EVs) often point to the unholy trinity of infrastructure, range, and price. Even if you’re an affluent city dweller with access to endless outlets, charging times still require between 15 minutes and 12 hours. This factor turns many potential EV users off, but MIT researchers may have found a solution to this charging conundrum.

In an article published by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Donald Sadoway (along with 15 other authors from Peking University, Yunnan University, Wuhan University of Technology, University of Louisville, from the University of Waterloo and Argonne National Laboratory), the materials chemistry professor claims to have found a cheap solution to expensive lithium-ion batteries.

“I wanted to invent something that was better, much better, than lithium-ion batteries for small-scale stationary storage, and ultimately automotive. [uses]Sadoway admitted.

To find a suitable substitute for volatile lithium, Sadoway turned to the second most commercially available and abundant metal on Earth: aluminum. Then the MIT professor identified the cheapest non-metal available, sulfur, as the battery’s other electrode. To relay the ions between the two points, Sadoway adopted a molten salt electrolyte. While the battery composition prioritizes cost effectiveness and easily accessible resources, Sadoway cites several additional benefits.

“The ingredients are cheap and the thing is for sure – it can’t burn,” Sadoway proclaimed.

However, the aluminum-sulfur battery still appreciates heat. Studies have shown that the device actually charges 25 times faster at 110 degrees Celsius (230 degrees Fahrenheit) than at 25 C (77 F). In addition, the battery generates heat during charging and discharging periods. This allows it to maintain optimum operating temperature while preventing the saline solution from freezing.

The molten salt electrolyte also dissolves accumulated metal dendrites, which can spread across both electrodes over time and cause shortages. This cheap and stable battery may not end up in vehicles immediately, but Sadoway thinks it can help speed up charging times in the near future. Installed in the charging stations, the battery system could store energy before quickly returning it to customers, thus minimizing waiting times.

Sadoway has already licensed the system patents to his newly co-founded company, Avanti.

“The first order of business for the business is to demonstrate that it works at scale,” Sadoway confessed.

If these tests show promise, we hope the new technology will accelerate both charging times and electric motorcycle adoption in the near future.

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