Allotrope Energy in the UK says it has developed a lithium carbon battery for mopeds and scooters that can be recharged in as little as 90 seconds. The new battery is supplied to the manufacturers by Mahle Powertrain, a global Tier One supplier to the automotive and mobility market.
The fast charging capacity is a result of the lithium-carbon battery’s high specific power, which can exceed 15 kilowatts per charge. kilogram, according to Allotrope. 10 kW per kilograms is the norm for other lithium-ion battery chemistries.
Pete Wilson, Allotrope’s Technical Director, explains Canary media the key to lithium-carbon technology is the development of non-porous carbon, which has traditionally been categorized as a capacitor material. He says that in 2014, a German car company came to the Allotrope team, which was then focused on capacitors, in search of a new battery technology.
“We realized that the battery they were asking for wasn’t an ultracapacitor, and it wasn’t a lithium-ion battery, but a bizarre combination of both,” says Wilson. “When we did the basic math of why this battery hadn’t been commercialized, it became clear that the reason was this problem with the carbon. We were a company that specialized in carbon. As a result, we put all the pieces together.” Several years ago, Tesla invested in ultracapacitor technology when it bought Maxwell.
Lithium Carbon is good for some applications but not for others
Lithium-carbon is suitable for electric mopeds and scooters because the vehicles and their charging requirements are relatively simple, explains Wilson. It is quite easy to build a lithium carbon battery to replace the iron phosphate or lead acid products used today.
In theory, the battery could be fully charged in just 60 seconds. The charging time of 90 seconds is due to the limitations of the charging infrastructure rather than the battery. “The reason it’s a 90-second charging concept is because Mahle has designed a prototype buffered charging point. The charger has a battery inside, and the battery dumps its energy into the moped,” explained Wilson.
For the larger batteries used in electric cars, there simply isn’t enough grid capacity to handle lithium-carbon batteries. This is why the chemistry is unlikely to be scaled up to larger vehicles in the near future. Wilson believes it would make more sense for electric cars to use hybrid lithium-ion battery and ultracapacitor systems that can be charged within five minutes using 350 kilowatt charging points.
This is no pie in the sky lab experiment. Lithium carbon batteries from Allotrope Energy are expected to be available in production cars by the end of this year. If the charging time of electric cars can be significantly shortened, many of the fears people have about electric cars will be eliminated.
Other Applications of Lithium Carbon Technology
There are several potential uses for lithium-carbon batteries beyond mopeds and scooters, says Wilson. Allotrope is also in talks with charging station operators to create battery-based buffers for charging systems for electric vehicles as well as dock charging systems for ships. They can also be used to shorten charging times for last-mile delivery vehicles and autonomous guided vehicles such as automated forklifts, Wilson says.
In addition to its high specific power, another advantage of the lithium-carbon chemistry is that it does not use cobalt or nickel, two elements that are supply chain concerns for manufacturers of conventional lithium-ion batteries. Cobalt in particular has limited availability. “You couldn’t electrify every car in this world with cobalt – we just don’t have enough,” says Wilson.
There is a lot of hand-wringing today about how the EV revolution will stall due to a lack of batteries. Allotrope Energy does not have the solution for every use, but if its lithium-carbon technology was used in cases where it is effective, some of these supply bottlenecks could be avoided.
Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. Continuing to burn fossil fuels to move people from here to there and back again is simply unsustainable. It seems likely that lithium-carbon battery technology could be an important tool in moving the mass adoption of electric car technology forward.
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