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This electric car battery takes less than 5 minutes to charge

By Olesya Dmitracova, CNN

London (CNN) — A British startup may have found the answer to one of the frustrations of driving an electric car — waiting around for the battery to charge.

Nybolt, based in Cambridge, has developed a new 35kWh lithium-ion battery that was charged from 10% to 80% in just over four and a half minutes in its first live demonstration last week.

That is much faster than the 20 minutes or so it currently takes some electric cars using a fast charger, such as a Tesla (TSLA) Supercharger. It is also much closer to the two minutes it takes to fill up the average gasoline-powered car.

“Our extensive research here in the UK and US has unlocked a novel battery technology that is ready and scalable right now,” Nyobolt’s co-founder and CEO, Sai Shivareddy, said in a statement Friday. “We are enabling the electrification of new products and services currently considered inviable or impossible.”

Nyobolt’s technology builds on a decade of research led by University of Cambridge battery scientist Clare Grey and Cambridge-educated Shivareddy, the company said. Key to its batteries’ ability to be charged super-fast without a big impact on their longevity is a design that means they generate less heat. It also makes them safer as overheating can cause a lithium-ion battery to catch fire and explode.

In addition, the materials used to make the batteries’ anodes allow for a faster transfer of electrons.

Nyobolt is currently in talks to sell its batteries to eight electric car manufacturers. At 35 kWh, the battery is much smaller than the 85 kWh in a more typical American electric vehicle (EV). Yet the technology may be used in larger battery packs in the future.

Comparatively long charging times are a major drawback of EVs currently on the market. They slow down road trips and they’re an inconvenience for owners who can’t charge their cars at home.

Nyobolt’s innovation, tested in the firm’s sports car prototype, is particularly encouraging for commercial EV fleets and drivers relying on electric cars in their jobs, according to Paul Marchment, consultant at Arval, a vehicle leasing specialist owned by BNP Paribas.

However, another barrier to faster adoption of EVs in the United States and Europe is a lack of public charging infrastructure.

Jack Evans, a motoring specialist at Blackball Media, welcomed the news about Nyobolt’s battery, which was tested on a track Thursday using a 350kW DC ultra-rapid charger of the kind that is hard to find on UK roads.

“The units used to charge the Nyobolt battery are few and far between in the UK, so in order for this to really make an impact, there needs to be an increase in the provision of ultra-rapid chargers,” he said.

Shivareddy told CNN that the number of fast chargers was rising both in the US and the European Union, and that he expects to “pretty much have them everywhere” by the end of the decade.

In North America, three out of four fast chargers are Tesla’s Superchargers, and virtually every big automaker in the US has committed to making EVs compatible with Tesla’s charging technology, known as the North American Charging Standard. Nyobolt’s battery is compatible with a Supercharger, the startup told CNN.

“We would love to work with Tesla and other leading (manufacturers) to bring our vision to life — with the aim of making recharging times the same as refueling times,” Shivareddy said. “This would require industry to collaborate for the rollout of a large number of such high-power chargers, along with the grid/off-grid power supply.”

Not ready for prime time just yet

Independent testing of Nyobolt’s batteries by what it called a leading global manufacturer found that they can achieve over 4,000 fast-charge cycles, equivalent to 600,000 miles (965,600 kilometers), while retaining more than 80% of capacity, Nyobolt said in its Friday statement. “This is many multiples higher than the warranties of much larger EV batteries on the road today,” it noted.

William Kephart, an e-mobility specialist at consultancy P3 Group and a former engineer, said EV batteries of the kind Nyobolt has developed could “theoretically” be charged as fast as the firm is promising, but the challenge was manufacturing such batteries on an industrial scale.

A crucial chemical element in Nyobolt’s batteries is niobium but, as Kephart pointed out, last year only an estimated 83,000 tonnes (94,500 tons) was mined worldwide. Compare that with graphite, commonly used as anode material in lithium-ion batteries: an estimated 1.6 million tonnes (1.8 million tons) was produced in 2023.

In addition, there are currently “a lot of unknowns” with the niobium battery technology, he told CNN. “The industry will work it out… (but) it’s not seen by the industry as a scalable technology just yet,” he added.

Besides slow charging, obstacles to EV ownership in the US and Europe include so-called range anxiety — the concern that the car will not have enough battery charge to reach its destination, especially acute during long drives — and EVs’ higher average price compared with new conventional cars.

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