VC dollars now chasing fast battery charging

Chrysalix Energy has led a multimillion-dollar investment in a Dutch-based maker of ultrafast battery chargers aimed at electric cars and plug-in hybrids. Epyon B.V., a spinout from the Delft University of Technology, has a “supercharge” technology it says can reduce the charge time of lithium-ion battery packs up to 20-fold. “Clearly, the bottleneck up to now has been the speed of re-charging and that is exactly what Epyon is good at,” said Rene Savelsberg, managing director and CEO of SET Venture Partners, a European affiliate to Chrysalix.

Epyon’s computer controlled, lightweight charger would reduce from five hours to 15 minutes the length of time it takes to charge up an electric vehicle’s battery pack. This would make it possible to begin adding quick-charge stations at existing gas stations, giving electric car owners the freedom of travelling longer distances without fear of running out of juice. Other companies, such as Vancouver-based AccelRate, are also working on quick-charge systems but still have some way to go. AccelRate currently claims it can reduce a five-hour lithium ion charge down to an hour. Even so, few people would be willing to sit at a charge station for an hour during a long drive.

As we get closer to 2010, when GM, Toyota and others are expected to come out with competing plug-in vehicles, the debate over quick-charge versus battery-swapping will continue to intensify. Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of Project Better Place, envisions a network of battery swap stations located throughout a country. Drivers of electric cars would become members of this network, paying a subscription just as they would for mobile phone coverage. Israel and Denmark have so far backed the idea. It should be noted, however, that Agassi isn’t against a charging infrastructure (and makes this clear on his Web site). And that’s probably a good things, as most experts I’ve spoken with say ultrafast charging is the future of electric transportation.

4 thoughts on “VC dollars now chasing fast battery charging”

  1. Did they think about the costs and engineering issues associated with the grid load of fast charging batteries? One would imagine the grid would have to be enhanced with large amounts of capacitors etc to level the spikes and peaks created by fast charging loads.

  2. The grid handles large loads now. Think about massive commercial air conditioners or large industrial motors.

    It’s not as if every charging station will start at the same moment. The starts/stops will be staggered.

  3. For overnight charging it’s fairly easy. If owners of plug-in hybrids or all-electrics are required to acknowledge this when they register their vehicle, then it’s easy for the power system operator to predict overnight charging.

    Now, for fast charging, I agree — there’s always plenty of experience with the off-on nature of power-hungry industrial equipment. I think it might be a little rough at first, but once a trend line is established then really you just end up with software making the predictions of system load/demand. That said, it won’t be without some difficulties, but I don’t think there’s any showstoppers here. At worst, charging stations will have to meet certain standards and be licenses to provide quick-charge services.

  4. Charging , say, 18 kWh in ten minutes means a draw of more than 100 kW. In five minutes it’s more than 200 kW. In one minute it’s more than a MegaWatt. One minute or maybe two is about what’s needed for a busy ‘gas’ station near highways etc, otherwise the queue will be too long. Compared to what I draw from my home, it’s at least one and probably two orders of magnitude more. Remember, there are hundreds of millions of cars that have to be served. They won’t be served at the same time of course, but there will be peaks, e.g. during rush hour, and when I do go, I use vastly more power than in my home.

    I think this is doable. But the amounts of power per person are huge, it will definately require grid managment. A smart grid would help a lot, with latent heat/cold storage in buildings and parked electric vehicles (V2G) responding to the load. But it’s still a nontrivial issue.

    Serial plugin-hybrids are still the best proposal overall IMHO. Most cars are parked 90+ percent of the time, so it’s not like they have to charge quickly. Exceptions would be taxi’s and trucks etc. so eventually we’ll need a charging infrastructure for that (or an insanely good high energy density battery, which may very well happen in the long run). I’ve read some reports that say about 80 percent of car travel can be charged overnight without significant grid upgrades. What would the grid upgrades for 5 minute fast charging cost?

    I think the best thing is slow charging wherever possible, and fast charging if necessary. But I would like to see some figures about the costs and issues of grid upgrades for large scale fast charging.

Comments are closed.