Current generation lithium-ion batteries can be cycled (charged and drained and charged again) about 500 times, but researchers say that the new batteries will be able to cycle 10,000 times. And with the faster charging, an electric car could be fully juiced in 15 minutes.
To achieve the faster charging speeds and better longevity, the researchers, lead by materials scientist Chen Xiaodong, tried a new material for the battery's negative pole, or anode. Instead of graphite — the current standard — they used a titanium dioxide gel. And the researchers created a new way of converting the titanium dioxide particles into nanotubes to speed the chemical reactions that lead to charging.
Rachid Yazami, who was not part of the research but also works at Nanyang Technological University and co-invented the lithium-graphite anode 34 years ago, told Science Daily:
There is still room for improvement and one such key area is the power density — how much power can be stored in a certain amount of space — which directly relates to the fast charge ability. Ideally, the charge time for batteries in electric vehicles should be less than 15 minutes, which Prof Chen's nanostructured anode has proven to do."
Battery technology evolves slowly, so you shouldn't get your hopes up too much. Still, it's heartening that the improvements the scientists are reporting in their new batteries come from carefully researched modifications of current lithium-ion batteries rather than completely novel designs. And since the special titanium dioxide gel is easy to make and costs less to manufacture than the old graphite anode, Chen thinks the improved batteries could be on the market in two years.