Electric cars are all the rage these days and several governments have plans to slowly phase out internal combustion engines in favor of them over the next decade. However, before electric cars fill our roads, the battery sector will have to find ways to drastically improve the current recharging rates. A wide ranging team of researchers have taken advantage of another technology that has captured the public eye, artificial intelligence (“AI”) for clues on how to improve recharging rates.
The team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Stanford University and the Toyota Research Institute wanted to see whether artificial intelligence could speed up the testing process required for novel charging techniques. They wrote a program that predicted how batteries would respond to different charging approaches, and it was able to cut the testing process from almost two years to 16 days. According to the researchers, the technique evaluated 224 possible high-cycle life charging processes in just over two weeks.
The Toyota Research Institute kicked off the research in 2017 when the Toyota Research Institute committed $35 million to artificial intelligence battery research, with an initial focus on new materials. Last year, the research partners claimed in a press release that artificial intelligence could help predict the useful life of lithium ion batteries to within 9% of their actual life cycle. “The standard way to test new battery designs is to charge and discharge the cells until they die. Since batteries have a long lifeline, this process can take several months and even years. It’s an expensive research bottleneck,” said co-lead author Peter Attia of Tesla Inc., then a Stanford doctoral candidate in materials science and engineering, at the time.
Canadian firm GBatteries has also had some success using AI to cut down battery charging time, managing to recharge an electric scooter in less than 10 minutes. However, according to GBatteries co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer Tim Sherstyuk, the main challenge with extremely fast charging is that it heats up and degrades the batteries. To combat this, the firm uses AI to monitor the state of the battery as it charges, pausing the charging once the impedance of the battery reaches a critical level to avoid causing irreversible damage.
This allows batteries to charge in a series of high-intensity pulses at a much faster rate without heating up and degrading. The technology currently works on small batteries and has been able to cut charging times from between 30 to 60 minutes down to 11 minutes. The goal is now to scale the technology so it can cope with an electric battery pack, and according to Sherstyuk, that’s going to take a while. It wouldn’t be surprising if Workhorse Group Inc. (NASDAQ: WKHS) and other interested firms make this technology a top priority for their upcoming releases.
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