Image: Tesla Press

Research carried out by Bristol University, Surrey University and Superdielectrics Ltd could provide a breakthrough that would allow electric cars to recharge in just 10 minutes rather than the hours it currently takes. The range of electric vehicles could also be substantially improved.

The teams have developed a next-generation material for supercapacitors which they believe to be more energy-dense than lithium-ion. This breakthrough with supercapacitors was predicted as early as 2011 by Tesla’s Elon Musk, who spoke about the future of electric vehicles at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco that year. He said: “If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that it is not batteries but supercapacitors.”

The director of research at Superdielectrics, Dr Donald Highgate, said that the research “could have a seismic effect on energy”. The company is now looking to develop this material and build a research and low volume production centre.

Dr Brendan Howlin, who is a senior lecturer in computational chemistry at the University of Surrey, said: “These results are extremely exciting and it is hard to believe that we have come so far in such a short time. We could be at the start of a new chapter in the technology of low-cost electrical energy storage that could shape the future of industry and society for many years to come.”

Dr Highgate, who is an alumnus of the University of Surrey, spoke of the impact this technology could have on both the automotive industry and on our energy systems overall. “The present work, if it can be translated into production, promises to make rapid charging possible for electric vehicles, as well as offering a much-needed low-cost method of storing the transient output from renewable energy systems. Wind, wave and solar energy is available but it is intermittent and, without storage, cannot be relied upon to meet our energy needs.” He added that: “This new work would transform the energy system which underpins our entire way of life. It is the necessary development before we and our children can have a genuinely sustainable, environmentally safe energy supply.”

 

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