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Canada: Electric-vehicle shortfalls may be solved by Hydro-Quebec battery invention

Quietly, Hydro-Quebec’s research arm is aiming for a battery revolution.

The electricity provider says it is developing a device that could outlast any car and be recharged in minutes with a fast-charging unit.

On the other hand, it would propel vehicles about one-third less distance between charges than current lithium-ion batteries.

In effect, this battery represents a new approach to range anxiety, requiring more frequent charges but accomplishing them in slightly more time than it takes to gas up a conventional car.

“Performance, service life and, most important, safety, are issues that continue to plague the development of the (lithium-ion) battery for the mass market,” states Karim Zaghib in a recent Journal of Power Sources, on behalf of his colleagues at the Institut de Recherche d’Hydro-Québec and others from universities in Paris. “We report … a battery that fulfills these requirements.”

Hydro-Québec, which has been involved in battery research for 30 years, has several partners in the project and a licensing agreement with Massachusetts-based A123 Systems, which supplies General Motors.

Although most lithium-ion batteries last only several hundred cycles of depletion and recharging, Zaghib says this one would survive 20,000: If recharged daily, that’s a 50-year lifespan.

A major catch is the cost of the fast-charging system, also known as Level Three.

(Level One means plugging into a 120-volt household socket. Level Two operates at 240 volts: This type, which costs $1,000 to $2,000 to install and replenishes batteries overnight, is becoming the standard for home charging.)

Level Three chargers are commercial-scale units that cost at least $15,000. A publicly accessible network would be required for Hydro’s battery to succeed.


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