GBatteries: The Future of Lithium-Ion?

about 3 months ago by Sam Holland

As we’re all aware, the tech world is gradually drifting from over-reliance on fossil fuels and tilting further towards environmentally-friendly and sustainable sources of energy–renewables.

The automotive industry is far from being left out, as leading automakers such as Tesla, Jaguar, and Hyundai are set to introduce newer, more energy-efficient electric vehicle (EV/s) models in the coming years.

Electric Vehicles and Ubiquitous Battery Woes

EVs run exclusively on battery power (secondary batteries), which portends huge demands for engineers to implement powerful battery systems with high power delivery, longevity, minimal power loss, and rapid charging to power these vehicles.

Electric vehicle batteries (EVBs) are deep cycle batteries such as lead-acid, nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride, lithium-ion, lithium-polymer, and the less common Zinc-air. The most prominent EVB type is Lithium-ion, with high capacity (anywhere from 20KWh to 100KWh) for sustained power delivery.  

When an EVB becomes depleted, it can charge using power from the grid or a dedicated EV charging system (much similar to the set-up obtainable in petrol stations, but supplying DC power rather than gasoline/diesel).

Unfortunately, Li-ion batteries don’t charge up so quickly. Typical charging times of EVBs can be anywhere from 30 minutes to 12 hours. This is a serious challenge for EV users with daily time constraints.

Fortunately, many tech companies are rising to the challenge of improving the battery systems of electric vehicles. Our focus for this article is Canadian Y Combinator startup, GBatteries.

About GBatteries

GBatteries is a Y Combinator startup founded in 2014 in Ottawa, Canada.

The company has received funding from the likes of AirBus Ventures, Plug and Play, SV Angel, and Initialized Capital. The company is run by Chief Commercial Officer Tim Sherstyuk, electrical engineers Alex Tkachenko and Nick Sherstyuk, and aerospace engineer Kostya Khomutov.

According to the company, GBatteries will stay ahead of its competitors with a unique approach in EVs–it optimises the charging speeds of regular secondary batteries rather than developing entirely new chemical compositions or materials (e.g. Enovate and Storedot) which could run into billions of dollars.

The tech company launched with the bold claim that its revolutionary charging technology would charge up an EV battery as quickly as filling up your regular car tank at a fuel station while significantly lowering Greenhouse emissions.

The Technology Behind GBatteries

Gbatteries is offering an intelligent control system based on AI and advanced electronics.

It optimises battery charging using an algorithm which speeds up or slows down the rate of charge relative to temperature, so there is little degradation of the battery’s chemistry over thousands of charge/discharge cycles as well as minimal power loss due to heat.

How Fast Can GBatteries Charge Up An EV?

Gasoline or diesel-driven car tanks fill up completely in around 5 minutes at gas stations. Gbatteries claims that its product can replicate that speed by completely charging up a 60KWh Electric Vehicle battery pack with 238 miles of range within the same time.

Image courtesy of Bigstock.

What Factors Affect EV Battery Charging Rates?

Factors like internal temperature, the output power of the charging system, and battery capacity affect the charging rates of EV batteries. Let’s take a look at these factors:

Temperature

Ultra-fast charging is generally not feasible in conventional car batteries as it tends to cause a rapid rise in the internal temperature of the electrolytes, and this quickly degrades battery life. Rapid internal heating can also cause batteries to explode.

From a safety point of view, any company proposing a new technology to ramp up charging speed must ensure that its products are compliant with safety regulations and RoHS-certified for safe operation.

To keep the battery temperature down, most charging stations will charge these Li-ion batteries at a steady pace, and trickle charge them for a few minutes at its self-discharge rate when the battery is 100%. GBatteries’ new technology already challenges some of the best charging systems, including Tesla’s 480V-Supercharger stations capable of charging up an EVB in little over an hour.

GBatteries utilises AI and advanced electronics to optimise the charging rates of EV batteries. A proprietary algorithm maps out the optimal charging sequence to significantly boost power delivery to a battery based on known factors that affect conventional Li-ion battery systems.

The team claims that it took months of research and extensive testing to observe significant results. Currently, the product is undergoing further development and GBatteries is planning to roll it out in EVs soon.

Battery Charger Output Power

A battery charger with a high output power can speed up the rate of charging.

Tesla offers charging stations with up to 120KW of power delivery capable of charging an 85KWh EV like the Model S in around 75 minutes. Conventional vehicles fill up with petrol/diesel in much less time, so it is still a problem for EV users.

Battery Capacity

The battery capacity of an electric vehicle generally refers to how much charge it can take.

EVBs charge at various voltage levels dependent on what is obtainable at a charging station. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) defines charging speeds as:

  • Level 1: 120VAC (household)
  • Level 2: 240VAC (upgraded household)
  • Level 3: 480V (Supercharging)

Automakers incorporate EVBs with capacities anywhere within the 20KWh to 100KWh range, e.g. Tesla’s Model S EV with capacities of 40 kWh, 60 kWh, and 85 kWh. In practice the higher the battery capacity, the greater the vehicle’s mileage on a full charge.

Typical EV charging times are anywhere from 30 minutes on fast-charging stations to 12 hours at lower charging power. Many users plug their EVs overnight and start the day on a full charge.

Image courtesy of BigStock.

Is GBatteries the Solution That EVs Need?

Whether GBatteries can substantiate its claims of ultra-fast battery charging in EVs is not certain.

From a technical standpoint, there are a lot of questions surrounding if such technology is indeed viable, and the company has been in stealth-mode, probably to safeguard its product. Interestingly, GBatteries has already proven its mettle at increasing the longevity of Li-ion batteries with its BatteryBox product for MacBooks and iPhones with BatteryOS technology. On this basis, we’re cautiously optimistic.

The company is currently carrying out extensive testing and further development to refine its product, so we’ll have to wait and see the technology charge an actual EV in 5 minutes. In any case, the battery issues that plague EVs will inevitably be solved, and GBatteries shows promise.

Comments