Fully Charged in About 8 Minutes

Public acceptance of electric vehicles has been hampered by a number of reasons, one of them styling or should I say lack of styling. The vehicles I have seen remind me of boxes on tiny wheels with an almost equal length to height ratio. They accommodate only a couple of people in a Spartan, somewhat claustrophobic cabin. These wheeled gadgets are truly boring and, in my opinion, should remain out of sight or be outfitted with blades to mow lawns.

Relegated primarily to neighborhood streets, electric vehicles do not have the speed and distance capabilities to keep up with regular cars in highway driving conditions. Obviously, the problem is the battery. It just does not have the capability to provide quick acceleration when needed, nor can it maintain a charge for traveling distances much longer than 100 miles.

But, this limitation could very well change soon. As stated in a recent article published in the MIT Technology Review, Altair Nanotechnologies (, a supplier of advanced nanomaterials, has developed a lithium-ion battery that could enable an electric vehicle to perform equally as well as a conventional car. To prove the technology, Altair is partnering with Boshart Engineering to incorporate the new battery design into a prototype electric vehicle and begin road testing by year-end.

According to the article, the new materials used in the manufacture of the electrodes enable the battery to provide larger power bursts, accommodate more storage capability, and have a longer service life. Always a major inconvenience with lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries, recharging the new lithium-ion battery takes only six to eight minutes, a significant reduction in time from the six to eight hours required for older battery types.

A visit to the company's website lists some interesting characteristics attributable to the new electrode materials. Besides a fast recharge time, the new batteries will sport three times more power and be able to be recharged 20,000 times instead of only 750 for existing ones.

As might be expected, there's a lot of testing to be done before you ll see these batteries any time soon in electric vehicles. Lithium-ion batteries have had their share of problems. Overheating is one, not to mention some catching on fire or exploding, which led to the recall last year of some laptop batteries according to the article.

Building and testing one prototype vehicle is a good beginning for collecting and analyzing meaningful data on the capabilities of the technology. However, as mentioned in the article, many more batteries will have to be built and installed in electric vehicles to ensure consistent and reliable performance in production quantities.

With the potential acceptance and producibility of the new lithium-ion batteries, hopefully car designers will take a hard look at styling. It's quite understandable that battery inefficiencies severely limited the size, shape, and weight of electric vehicles in the past. Now, designers can pay more attention to what people want in their cars. I m talking about lengthening the chassis, incorporating larger wheels, adding new features on the dash, and installing more luxurious seating. Who knows? Maybe, tomorrow's electric vehicles will be available with back seats.

Paul Milo
Editorial Director
[email protected]

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