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Canada: Hydro-Quebec reserachers close to super-fast electric vehicle charger

Engineers at Hydro-Québec’s research institute in this Montreal suburb say they can recharge a lithium-ion battery cell in just one minute.

That speed is the current state-of-the-art for solving one of the big problems with electric vehicles — how to cut the time it takes to re-juice a depleted battery.

The best fast-chargers now promise to do that job in about 30 minutes. With a 240-volt charger — the most common type — it’s hours.

But before you rush to your nearest EV showroom, you should know the breakthrough involves recharging just a single 18650 cell, the small, tube-shaped battery that’s used in many laptops and other electronic gadgets, and, in a pack of nearly 6,700, powers the Tesla Roadster electric sports car.

Still, it’s a major step in the slow-moving effort to produce batteries that can help make EVs appeal to the mass market.

The goal, says Karim Zaghib, who heads the Hydro institute’s battery research team, is a five-minute charge for almost any battery pack; a rate that would get drivers back on the road in about the same time as filling a gas tank.

That level of performance is reasonably close, Zaghib says. But he won’t provide details: The institute and its partner in this research, the U.S. Department of Energy, have applied for patents for the technology and they’ll reveal nothing until that’s complete, likely by the end of the year.

Skeptics who argue it’s physically impossible to push enough electricity into a battery to achieve a five-minute charge — several readers have sent me detailed calculations to “prove” that point — are just trying to pry a few secrets loose, Zaghib says with a laugh.


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