In a report published this week, government researchers report that they have discovered a way to charge electric car batteries up to 90 percent faster, in 10 minutes.
The method is probably five years away from entering the market, scientists say, but it will mark a fundamental change.
"Our goal is to get very close to times you would see at a gas pump," said Eric Dufek, the study's lead author and a scientist at the Idaho National Laboratory, a research center run by the Department of Energy.
The issue is the delicate balance of trying to charge an electric vehicle battery faster, but not so fast that the fast charge will damage the battery in the long term or risk an explosion. Rapid charging of electric batteries can cause damage, reducing battery life and performance, scientists report.
"Batteries are great at first, but after a few years or a few hundred charge cycles, they don't perform as well," said Eric D. Wachsman, director of the Maryland Energy Innovation Institute, an energy research organization at the University of Maryland.
Dufek and his team used machine learning to understand how batteries age when charged rapidly. Their algorithm was trained to analyze 20.000 to 30.000 data points that showed how well the battery was charging as it aged or degraded.
Wachsman said the new research is very useful for the field.
"Neither too fast, nor too late", he said for Dufek's charging approach.
"The biggest benefit would be if this method prompts car companies to build electric vehicles with smaller batteries, batteries that could be charged more quickly and allow consumers to feel less concerned about having to periodically stop for a recharge.
"Smaller batteries mean cheaper cars."