Getting Charged Up

While electric cars seem to be gaining in popularity, current battery technology is keeping the industry from being a truly viable alternative to the gasoline engine.  While current battery technology is pretty amazing, it still lacks the ability to quickly charge. Until an electric vehicle can be quickly charged to allow for use on extended trips, electric vehicles will only be able to support a small percentage of our transportation needs, and the key to solving this problem is in battery technology.

Currently both the Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Volt use a lithium-ion battery as the primary source of power, these batteries have a maximum time range of about 4 hours for city driving and as little as 1 hour for highway usage with a range of about 60 miles in ideal conditions (the Volt can run longer, but requires a gasoline engine to run to charge the batteries). Once the vehicles battery is depleted it takes approximately 10 hours on 120v or 4hours on 240v to completely replenish the batteries. While many people can accommodate this type of charging needs for their general daily commute, it won’t work for extended trips.

Though current battery technology lacks the ability to quickly charge, there are new technologies being developed that may solve this problem. One of these is being provided by The Braun Group at the University of Illinois in Urban Champaign. Braun has developed a new 3D Lithium Ion thin film battery, this technology has been able to increase the charging rates 10 to 100 times that of current batteries. A second new technology being developed is coming from Altairnono, Inc. located in Reno, Nv. Altairnano is using nano-structured lithium titanate technology to develop a battery capable of increased power and fast charging rates. Both of these technologies are capable of making re-charging your batteries as quick as filling up your current vehicle with gasoline.

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