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Nissan Developing 10-Minute Charge for Electric Cars

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author photo by Nick Chambers October 2011

Electric cars are quiet, quick, cheap to operate, and as good as any other modern car in many regards, but compared to their gas-powered counterparts they still fall down in one key area: they take a long time to fill with "fuel."

Filling a gas tank takes a matter of minutes, but filling a battery with electrons from a standard home charging station can take between four and eight hours. While a certain portion of the car buying public may find this speed suitable, pumping electrons as fast as pumping gas remains the holy grail of electric car mass acceptance-and it's something Nissan now says is possible.

Although current fast charging technology based on the Japanese ChaDeMo standard can already fill a properly equipped electric car's battery with 80 miles of driving range in about 30 minutes, it's still too slow for electric cars to be accepted by the majority of drivers.

If this timeframe could drop to something around 10 minutes, the world of electric cars could become practical and feasible for almost all drivers' needs. And now research collaboration between Japan's Kansai University and Nissan has resulted in new battery chemistry and charging equipment that has proven this goal is possible.

With a high enough voltage, modern batteries can actually be charged in less than 30 minutes, but the materials inside them get pulverized in the process-rendering the batteries useless for holding a charge again. Even Nissan warns against using the 30-minute ChaDeMo charge on the Leaf too much as it can reduce the lifespan of the battery.

By changing the material inside the battery that holds the charge from carbon to the rarer tungsten oxide and vanadium oxide, the research team found that the battery could take a charge much faster without damaging the material-so fast, in fact, that the batteries were full in 10 minutes.

Right now the new batteries only exist in prototype form, but the researchers expect them to be commercialized within a matter of years. However, given that electric car batteries already account for as much as 45 percent of an EV's cost, questions remain about how the new batteries could be made affordable when tungsten and vanadium are much more expensive than carbon.

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Nissan Developing 10-Minute Charge for Electric Cars - Autotrader