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Rapid Recharges Won’t Wear Out Batteries, MIT Determines

Good news for proponents of 30-minute charge stations.

by on Jan.06, 2011

Rapid charging, using Level III chargers like this one, won't seriously degrade electric vehicle batteries, says MIT.

They may be clean and green, but for most American motorists, operating a battery-electric vehicle can be seen as quite a pain.  Most models, such as the 2011 Nissan Leaf, are expected to get no more than about 100 miles per charge, and recharging their lithium-ion batteries can take as much as 12 hours or more.

Factor in the cost penalty of a battery vehicle and most experts predict the technology will, at best account for less than 10% of the U.S. market by 2020.  But what if those range, price and charging challenges are overcome?

The cost of lithium technology is expected to plunge as sales volumes rise and competition expands.  As with other batteries, meanwhile, power density – read range – is also expected to increase.  And proponents believe they can also make charging less of a hassle using high-voltage quick chargers that can top off a drained battery in as little as 15 to 30 minutes.

There has been widespread concern that these so-called Level III chargers could take a toll, significantly reducing battery life, but a new study by Electric Vehicle Team at MIT says such problems have been significantly overstated.

Using lithium batteries from supplier A123 – which will provide the power for the upcoming Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid – the MIT team found that even after 1,500 discharge and rapid recharge cycles the batteries lost barely 10% of their initial capacity.