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New Liquid Electric Car Batteries Are as Easy to Charge as Pumping Gas New Liquid Electric Car Batteries Are as Easy to Charge as Pumping Gas

New Liquid Electric Car Batteries Are as Easy to Charge as Pumping Gas

by Ben Jervey

June 9, 2011

A new lightweight battery design featuring a gooey, liquid core could be a game changer for electric cars, allowing drivers to quickly recharge their vehicles in a process as easy as pumping gas.

Remember, the biggest hurdle to widespread electric car adoption is certainly range anxiety, or the fear of running out of juice somewhere far from home and not being able to quickly recharge. So it follows that the electric vehicle (EV) battery is an area of incredible investment and research. Solve range anxiety, and EVs could get quite a jolt.

This project was developed by a team at MIT (it feels like we write that a lot), and the batteries rely on a novel new design called a semi-solid flow cell, in which "solid particles are suspended in a carrier liquid and pumped through the system." Or, for those of us who don't speak Science, the parts of the battery that hold a charge are mixed in with this black, gooey substance (see above), which the team is calling "Cambridge Crude."

Here's MIT's somewhat technical description:

One important characteristic of the new design is that it separates the two functions of the battery — storing energy until it is needed, and discharging that energy when it needs to be used — into separate physical structures. (In conventional batteries, the storage and discharge both take place in the same structure.) Separating these functions means that batteries can be designed more efficiently.

The most exciting bit? You could feasibly be able to discharge the liquid out of the battery and refill it with fully charged goo.

Another potential advantage is that in vehicle applications, such a system would permit the possibility of simply “refueling” the battery by pumping out the liquid slurry and pumping in a fresh, fully charged replacement, or by swapping out the tanks like tires at a pit stop, while still preserving the option of simply recharging the existing material when time permits.

It would certainly be appealing to customers to have the flexibility to either charge the car with a normal plug into an outlet or swap out the battery's juice for some fully charged replacement. Of course, that would require "gas stations."

Better Place's battery-swapping stations is the obvious reference for a company trying to make that concept work, and it remains to be seen who would take the lead on bringing these semi-solid flow cells to market. Would Better Place adopt them? Would another company form? The scientists are doing their part. Let's see if the capitalists want to get in on the action.

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