Battery Researchers Look to Artificial Intelligence to Slash Recharging Times

The battery sector is turning to artificial intelligence for
clues on how to improve recharging rates without increasing the
degradation of lithium-ion batteries.

Last month, a team from Stanford University, the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology and the Toyota Research Institute published
findings from battery testing aimed at cutting electric vehicle
charging times down to 10 minutes. The research, published in
Nature, revealed how artificial intelligence could speed up the
testing process required for novel charging techniques.

The researchers wrote a program that predicted how batteries
would respond to different charging approaches and was able to cut
the testing process from almost two years to 16 days,
Stanford reported
. The technique was used to evaluate 224
possible high-cycle-life charging processes in just over two weeks,
the
researchers said
.

‘An expensive bottleneck in battery research’

The research effort has been in progress for at least three
years. In 2017, the Toyota Research Institute committed $35 million
to artificial intelligence battery research, initially focusing on
new materials.

Last year, the research partners claimed artificial intelligence
could help predict the useful life of lithium-ion batteries to
within 9 percent of the actual life cycle of the products.

“The standard way to test new battery designs is to charge and
discharge the cells until they die,” co-lead author Peter Attia,
now of Tesla but then a Stanford doctoral candidate in materials
science and engineering, said in
a press release
at the time.

“Since batteries have a long lifetime, this process can take
many months and even years. It’s an expensive bottleneck in
battery research.”

Independent of these efforts, a Canadian firm called GBatteries
is using artificial intelligence in a bid to cut lithium-ion
battery charging times down to five minutes. The company has
succeeded in recharging an electric scooter battery in less than 10
minutes.

The main challenge with extremely fast charging is that it heats
up and degrades the battery, GBatteries co-founder and chief
commercial officer Tim Sherstyuk told GTM.

The rates that can be achieved with today’s fast-charging
technology, which are slow by gas station filling standards, are
“already problematic” for batteries, he said.

Are high-intensity charging ‘pulses’ the way forward?

Most fast-charging initiatives focus on novel chemistries that
won’t degrade easily, Sherstyuk said. GBatteries, meanwhile, uses
artificial intelligence to monitor the state of the battery as it
is charging.

Once the impedance of the battery reaches a critical level, the
GBatteries algorithm pauses charging long enough to avoid
irreversible damage. This allows charging to proceed in a series of
high-intensity pulses at a rate much faster than is possible with
traditional methods.

The GBatteries technology works for small batteries and has been
demonstrated on power tools, cutting charging times from between 30
to 60 minutes down to 11. But scaling it up to cope with an
electric vehicle battery pack is “going to take a while,” said
Sherstyuk.

Even if artificial intelligence can help crack the means to
charge electric vehicles as quickly as you now fill your tank with
gas, it will take a while for the auto industry to incorporate the
technology into the mainstream. The time horizon is years, not
months.

Nevertheless, there is plenty of industry interest in tackling
the problem.

“Charging time is usually the fourth concern that people raise
when considering to go electric or not, after upfront cost, range
of the vehicle and where will I charge,” said Aaron Fishbone,
director of communications at GreenWay, which operates a
fast-charging network across Eastern Europe.

“So, while not a top-tier issue, it’s still one raised by
many people.”

GBatteries’ pulse charging “will require a lot more
testing” before it might be considered appropriate for the 50
kilowatt-plus power ratings required for electric vehicles,
Fishbone said. In the meantime, high-power recharging is already
reducing the time it takes to charge a battery.

Although there are not yet many cars that can take them, a
150-kilowatt charger can add 100 kilometers (62 miles) of range to
an electric vehicle within a little over seven minutes, Fishbone
said.

“Nonetheless, anything which can speed up charging time
without degrading battery life is a welcome development and can
lead to other innovations which push the whole industry.”

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
Battery Researchers Look to Artificial Intelligence to Slash Recharging Times