Mahle ultra-fast charging for electric urban delivery vehicles

Suppose your business uses delivery vehicles and you are planning to switch from fuel to battery. General Motors Bright Drop (picture below) and a growing number of others will be happy to sell you electric vans of various sizes that can go 200 miles or more (322 km) on a charge. The obvious benefits are no refueling or maintenance of the internal combustion engine, plus the convenience and low cost of overnight charging at home – perfect for US Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, Walmart and others with extended daily routes.

But let’s say you make several short trips each shift, perhaps for pizza, fast food, or grocery deliveries. You don’t need vans for such trips. So how about a small fleet of low-cost battery-electric vehicles – cheap little cars, even scooters (weather permitting)? And if they could recharge very quickly, you could enjoy a few minutes of charging time between rides.

That’s exactly where the UK’s Mahle powertrain is going with Allotrope Energy’s new lithium-carbon battery technology, which is supposed to combine the benefits of supercapacitors and traditional lithium-ion batteries to enable “ultra-fast” full charging as quickly as ICE vehicles can be refueled. They are also supposed to be fully recyclable, free of rare earth metals, and not susceptible to runaway events while providing good (not great) power density.

General Motors

“Range anxiety is often cited as the biggest barrier to electric vehicle adoption, but if the battery could be charged at the same time it takes to refuel a motor vehicle conventional thermal, a lot of that worry goes away,” says Mike Bassett, Mahle. Head of Powertrain research.

“With the rise of the on-demand economy, there has been a rapid increase in the use of gas-powered mopeds for urban deliveries such as take-out meals, and this has contributed to the quality issues of the air in our cities.”

But replacing city motor vehicles for short trips with conventional BEVs would require either more of them (due to long charging times) or stocks of interchangeable batteries. The advantage of using inexpensive, small-capacity lithium-carbon batteries, according to Mahle and Allotrope, would be very fast recharging between stops.

A microvan with four to 15 kWh of battery power could provide a range of 12 to 37 miles (20 to 60 km) around town with a full recharge in two to five minutes. A delivery scooter with just 0.5 kWh of battery could potentially travel up to 25 km and recharge in less than two minutes.

Using a high-rate battery-type anode and a high-capacity electric double-layer capacitor (EDLC)-type cathode, separated by an organic electrolyte, Allotrope’s lithium-carbon cell technology (photo below, left) claims to combine the benefits of supercapacitors and traditional lithium-ion batteries into a cell that can be recharged very quickly.

Beyond that, it should experience none of the thermal degradation effects that traditional lithium batteries can experience, and its stability will allow for high current draw and rapid recharging even at high temperatures without the need for external cooling or elaborate battery management systems. .

Battery Mahle-Allotrope-Li-C.png Additionally, “its capacitor-type cathode enables a life of over 100,000 cycles, far exceeding that of conventional batteries, while the elimination of rare-earth metals and the design’s complete recyclability make it better for the environment during production and long after.”

Mahle Powertrain has investigated the use of a lithium-carbon pack with a target range of 15 miles in an urban fast food delivery moped that can be recharged to 20kW in just 90 seconds while the driver picks up their next delivery. By comparison, he says, a conventional 500Wh li-ion battery would require a mid-charge charge (which takes over 30 minutes even with a fast charger) and would likely need replacing every year or two. , as regular fast charging tends to reduce Li-ion battery life.

“With ultra-fast charging,” says Bassett, “battery size can be optimized to suit the scenarios the vehicle will be used in, resulting not only in weight savings, but also in cost reductions. that further lower the barriers to decarbonization. . The real challenge (is) to design the electrical architecture capable of absorbing such high load rates.

Mahle Powertrain used Allotrope’s carbon-in-lithium-ion cell technology to design “ultra-fast charging, aggressively downsized” battery packs for urban delivery van and electric moped applications .

And in the absence of suitable systems available today capable of delivering such charging rates from household power supplies, he has also created a system that uses its own built-in capacitor energy reservoir to deliver ultra -fast up to 20 kW by increasing the power of a typical single-phase connection by seven kW. Designed to reduce both cost and complexity, it promises to eliminate the need for costly power grid upgrades.

At this early stage, Mahle has manufactured these cells and packs and is expected to test them in vehicles soon. No word yet on volume production, cost or potential customers.

About Walter Bartholomew

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