07-06-2019 | | By Nnamdi Anyadike
Ultra-fast charging is the ‘holy grail’ of new battery technology and today’s fast chargers can charge batteries in half the time of older chargers. But even faster times are expected within the next couple of years. This will transform the latest battery technology market and have profound effects on a whole range of end-use markets from smart-phones to electric vehicles (EVs). In the case of EVs, the time needed to deliver 600kWh of energy could be reduced to ‘just minutes’. At this speed, an EV charge would replicate the convenience of filling a conventional petrol or diesel vehicle with 50 litres of fuel.
In April, the German power tool manufacturer C. & E. Fein GmbH announced the launch of a new fast charger the Fein ALG 80, which it claims can charge from “zero to 80 percent in 38 minutes.” Fein product manager Thomas Blank said, "These are best in the market and we know that we offer our customers an excellent and, above all, fast charger." The battery pack is charged up to 80 percent of its capacity using the constant current constant voltage (CCCV) charging method. When this charge level is reached the charging current is then reduced and the remaining 20 percent is done at a slower speed to protect the life of the battery.
A Canadian start-up company, GBatteries Energy, claims that it has developed a new generation charger for EVs that can pump half a charge, equivalent to119 miles of range, into a Chevrolet Bolt EV battery, “in 5 minutes.” It can also fill it completely in about double that time. The batteries are charged using ‘pulsed charging’ technology. This is claimed to be superior to standard CCCV charging protocols. Artificial intelligence programmed into the controller monitors the battery's parameters. However, although a prototype EV charger should be running later this year GBatteries is thought to be several years away from commercial deployment of their system. Achieving a 50 percent in 5 minutes charge rate requires a charging rate in kW that's five times the battery's current capacity in kW-hr.
Meanwhile, an Israeli company StoreDot is also offering EVs a battery recharge time of just 5 minutes. Doron Meyersdorf, the company’s co-founder and CEO told Israeli media that a StoreDot Flash Battery can be filled in just five minutes, providing 300 miles of range. This makes it competitive with a petrol-powered car. Like regular batteries, the Flash battery can be built using lithium. But StoreDot replaces the graphite used by all other electric battery manufacturers with a mix of metalloids including silicon and proprietary organic compounds synthesized in its labs. This not only improves charging time but also helps to address the safety issues associated with heating graphite.
“It’s a known problem and the reason why all such batteries are charged slowly. And it’s also why our technology is garnering such interest,” said Meyersdorf. Last year, StoreDot received $20 million in investment from BP Ventures and EVE Energy, a Shenzhen-listed manufacturer of lithium batteries, which intends to manufacture StoreDot batteries in China. Meyersdorf says the company will need upwards of $400 million to develop its own battery manufacturing plant – to be called One Giga – in the United States no later than 2022. In the meantime, StoreDot is targeting the mobile devices and power banks market as early as the end of this year.
Meanwhile, fast charging for smart-phones is developing by leaps and bounds. At the May-June ‘Computex’ show in Taipei, Samsung announced a new charging technology that will be able to deliver up to 100W-20V at 5A. That’s more in line with a charger for a big, power-hungry laptop than the phone chargers we’re using today. The SE8A chip that will make this possible is already being mass-produced. And it may start appearing in Samsung phones before the end of the year.
Texas Instruments continues to push the boundaries of fast charging. Its fast battery charging range includes 1S fully integrated fast chargers up to 8A. The portfolio includes the BQ25895 integrated 5-A battery charge manager. It also includes the BQ24190 I2C controlled 4.5A single-cell USB/adaptor charger; the BQ2591 I2C controlled 6A three-level switch mode single-cell charger and the BQ25970 8A switched cap battery charger with integrated protection. With various technologies like MaxCharge™, Texas Instruments can speed up battery charging for many applications including high-end smartphones, tablets and portable speakers.
The total market for battery chargers is expected to reach $16 billion worldwide by 2020. This will be driven by portable and wearable electronics, smart-phones, laptops and tablets. But the extremely limited battery space in these products will force through changes in charging system designs. This inevitably will include an increase in the adoption of fast charging technologies.