Battery breakthrough could see electric cars charged in seconds

Electric cars could be charged in a matter of seconds using a revolutionary new battery system, it has been claimed. A so-called ‘flow battery’ system, which has been developed by researchers at the University of Glasgow, uses nano-molecules to store either electric power or hydrogen gas, creating a flexible dual-output battery system.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Chemistry, chemists from the University of Glasgow reported how they developed a ‘hybrid-electric-hydrogen’ flow battery, based upon the design of a nano-scale battery molecule that can store energy, releasing the power on demand as electric power or hydrogen gas that can be used a fuel. When a concentrated liquid containing the nano-molecules is made, the amount of energy it can store increases by almost 10 times. The energy can be released as either electricity or hydrogen gas meaning that the system could be used flexibly in situations that might need either a fuel or electric power.

One potential benefit of this system is that electric cars could be charged in seconds, as the material is a pumpable liquid. This could mean that the battery of an electric car could be “recharged” in roughly the same length of time as petrol cars can be filled up. The old battery liquid would be removed at the same time and recharged ready to be used again.

Professor Leroy Cronin, the University of Glasgow’s Regius Chair of Chemistry, said: “For future renewables to be effective, high capacity and flexible energy storage systems are needed to smooth out the peaks and troughs in supply.

“Our approach will provide a new route to do this electro-chemically and could even have application in electric cars where batteries can still take hours to recharge and have limited capacity.

“Moreover, the very high energy density of our material could increase the range of electric cars, and also increase the resilience of energy storage systems to keep the lights on at times of peak demand.”

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