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Toshiba Superfast Recharge Batteries
Jamais Cascio, 29 Mar 05

toshbatt.jpgWe've posted in the past about rapid-recharge battery technologies using nanomaterials. NEC and Altair Nanotechnology have been making the most noise about the development, but it looks like Toshiba may end up being first to market. The Japanese tech giant announced today a new generation lithium-ion battery technology which can be recharged to 80% in one minute, with total recharge taking a few minutes more. That's not all:

The excellent recharging characteristics of new battery are not its only performance advantages. The battery has a long life cycle, losing only 1% of capacity after 1,000 cycles of discharging and recharging, and can operate at very low temperatures. At minus 40 degrees centigrade, the battery can discharge 80% of its capacity, against 100% in an ambient temperature of 25 degree centigrade).

The Register and Tech Japan have summaries, but the Toshiba press release actually has some interesting details, including this graphic:

While Toshiba plans to roll the battery technology out across the spectrum of uses, they have identified transportation systems -- hybrid-electric cars in particular -- as their first target. This is probably for reasons of cost, but as we've discussed, this application makes a great deal of sense. The key limiting factors to how much a hybrid-electric can rely on its batteries for power are how much they store (energy density) and how quickly they can be recharged (via regenerative braking, the gas engine, etc.). If the Toshiba system lives up to claims, the new batteries would be an improvement in both characteristics, and hybrid cars would be able to be more electric than ever.

Toshiba notes that the battery technology has another 'green' characteristic: the fast recharge means that less electricity is lost during the charging process, which in turn means that less electricity is required.

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Comments

How cool! I especially like the five-pointed Pareto diagram on their website.


Posted by: Joseph Willemssen on 29 Mar 05

Extremely cool indeed.

I don't think I'm alone to think that battery development seems critically under-funded compared to fuel cells & co, especially in regard to the impact that advancements in battery technology could bring.


Posted by: Mikhail Capone on 29 Mar 05

Definitely very cool tech. Can lithium-ion batteries be recycled, refurbished or reused in some ways?


Posted by: Hasse Schougaard on 29 Mar 05

What hasn't been clear to me about the Toshiba battery technology is how much more current is needed to recharge a battery 60 times faster. Is it just that current batteries are just so inefficent at charging, or will they require a much higher power draw if they scale the size of the battery up?

No physicist here, so I can't say. But if these things work as well as claimed then there may be a whole new realm of uses to be dreamt up!


Posted by: Patrick Donohue on 29 Mar 05

Patrick:  Present-day batteries are slow to charge because they have high internal resistance.  You can drive current against this resistance, but you wind up converting more and more energy to heat rather than storing it; enough heat will physically damage the battery.

Even if you don't run high charging voltages long enough to create damaging temperatures, eventually you reach a point where the applied voltage is high enough to cause other chemical reactions that you don't want; in lead-acid batteries, you stop converting lead sulfate to acid and instead convert water to hydrogen and oxygen gas.  Enough of that in a battery, and the gas pressure forces the electrolyte out and destroys it or you just plain run out of electrolyte.

That said, this battery sounds remarkable.  Imagine a plug-in hybrid car with a 10 kWh battery on board; you pull into a filling/charging station with the battery totally flat.  You put 480 kW into it for all of a minute, and it's 80% charged; 4 more minutes at 30 kW, and it's at 100%.

Electrifying even small segments of freeways would allow cars to run all-electric.  This thing is BIG.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 30 Mar 05

Engineer-Poet's comment made me think. This will be an interesting dilemma for 'filling stations'. If I can 'fill up' (charge) at home, I no longer need to go to a filling station unless I'm on a long distance trip. Result: many fewer visits to filling stations, almost to the point where they may not be profitable. Bottom line, if cars become electric, it'll be interesting to see how the electric distribution system will change.

I would also love to use my eliptical exercise machine to charge the car at night. That would make easier to justify a workout!


Posted by: Erik Ehlert on 30 Mar 05

That may not make much difference; people already stop at C-stores much more often than they fill up.  If I'm not mistaken, fuel is already such a low-margin business that most stations make their profits from sundries or mechanic's services.

If you can put out 200 watts on your elliptical and keep up with it for an hour a day, you'd get enough energy to move your car about a mile.  If you want to feel virtuous you'd be better off charging the battery on an electric bike. ;-)


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 31 Mar 05

I have been wondering about the following for some time, but since I am no physicist nor engineer, this may prove my shallow understanding of the concepts involved:

Since current hybrids rely on regenerative braking to recharge the electric battery, would it be possible to have an electric car with this newly developed battery than can rely on this same regenerative braking technique to recharge the battery, at least for a few hundred miles before needing to be plugged in?


Posted by: Ananse on 2 Apr 05

The impossibility of that can be summed up in one phrase:  Law of Conservation of Energy.

If you don't know enough physics to know what that means and what it implies, you've just discovered your homework assignment.


Posted by: Engineer-Poet on 2 Apr 05

Engineer-Poet's comments are correct, but in Li-ion batteries the problem is not heat generation (because they can be discharged fast). I thought it was lithium ions being plated on the surface of the anode.
What have Toshiba actually done to overcome this problem? Some of their press releases seem to be Jap-lish and get the anode & cathode around the wrong way.


Posted by: Bob Smith on 3 Apr 05

To be fair to Ananse--it is, of course, impossible to keep driving around indefinitely without losing energy. If you weren't expending energy, you wouldn't be moving your car.

That said, if we can do a lot better about efficiency than we have so far--which is what this all amounts to, reclaiming braking energy and storing it in low-resistance batteries as fast as it's reclaimed--it's worth it, and going farther on the same charge is indeed the point. Hundreds of miles sounds like an arbitrary number, and it's fairly ambitious, maybe improbable. But while perpetual motion is impossible, really really efficient motion is a fine goal.


Posted by: Robin Skyler on 7 Apr 05

Toshiba's new technology sounds promising but does it live up to that of Altair's? Although Toshiba's battery can recharge 80% in one minute vs. Altair's taking approximately 6 minutes are we missing the point that Toshiba's begins degrading by 1-3% post 1,000 recharge cycles? Altair's design has been tested to 9,000 cycles without degradation and is estimated to be good through 20,000 cycles.


Posted by: The Raven on 8 Apr 05

I'm curious that no one has mentioned solar charging of these batteries. One of the biggest drawbacks of solar charging is that the sun is out for just a short or irregular time. Solar panels on the roof of a car would be exposed to a lot of sun and relatively safe from dings and bangs except in rollovers. In this case the solar hybrid car might be a bit closer to being perpetualy in motion as it would be an open system--receiving sunshine when a lot of driving occurs.
Anyone believe that there is a barrier to charging these lithium-ion batteries by solar panels?


Posted by: jimcoli on 8 Apr 05

Altair is pulling everyone's chain. They don't have battery technology, they're a raw material manufactuere who's made a raw material for the anode. I've never seen so much hype getting published, something must be up in the market.

The big drawback of Altair's technology is it's


Posted by: Bob Smith on 10 Apr 05

(Whoops they cut me off!)
The big drawback of Altair's technology is it's <3V vs a nominal 4.2V for the competitiion. That means two cells instead of one. That may be ok in big units (car batteries, UPS etc) but not in anything portable.


Posted by: Bob Smith on 10 Apr 05



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