Electric vehicles sales are picking up globally. By 2020, an estimated 20 million electric vehicles are expected to hit the road. While it is a good sign that more people are ditching traditional gas-guzzling vehicles in favour of electric vehicles, it has one major drawback – long battery-charging times.
Compared to the mere minutes it takes to refuel a traditional petroleum-based car, electric cars take anywhere from four to 20 hours to charge, depending on the make of the electric car.
StoreDot, an Israel-based battery solutions startup, is tackling the problem with the use of nanotechnology.
The power of nanotechology
The concept of nanotechnology – a method to manipulate individual atoms and molecules – is not new, going back to the 1950s. Its first commercial application, however, only began in the early 2000s, with products such as scratch-resistant glass coatings, televisions with organic LEDS, which make them more power-efficient and thinner, entering the market.
“We are employing nanotechnology to build our proprietary FlashBattery system. Based on this, we are able to connect thousand of cells in an array, and charge them together, this is similar to Tesla [electric car maker] with Panasonic. In a Tesla battery, you have 7,000 Panasonic cells that are connected in an array. This system enables a rate of charging that is very fast,” said Doron Myersdorf, CEO and Founder of StoreDot, in an interview with e27.
“Soon, we will be able to eliminate the need for long lines, super-charged stations, or the entire night that the driver needs (to) charge his car at home. You will have the same experience as refuelling in a gas station. Three to five minutes and your car is ready to go, and without all the fumes [in a traditional gas station],” he added.
It is in talks to partner with major electric vehicle maker, Tesla, and other leading players in the sector in Europe and China to develop and incorporate its FlashBattery system.
“They have the charging protocols and battery interface. We want to leverage on what is already available and be a complementary service to them, we don’t want to reinvent the wheel.”
The road has not been without bumps, though. Myersdorf faced some challenges while developing the system for mobile phones.
“[In order to achieve a much faster charging] we need to charge up to 100 amps compared to one or two amps for the traditional batteries. So the challenge is to change the [battery] system of the phone, such as the wiring and so forth so that they can sustain higher counts [and not wear out easily]. The heat also needs to be managed. Most of it is actually in the connectors though and not the battery, because we have reduced the resistance of the battery with the addition of organic compounds,” he said.
According to StoreDot, the use of organic compounds also means that its batteries are toxic-free and environmentally friendly, compared to other devices and electric vehicles in the market, which utilises Lithium-Ion batteries (LiBs) that contain toxic heavy metals.
The overhaul of the entire mobile phone battery system also caused another complication – shorter battery life. However, Myersdorf is unfazed by it.
“The battery life will be shorter, about four to five hours, but if recharging only takes one minute, it should be a non-issue. I believe it will change the way users behave and plan their day. They will not have to worry about recharging if it takes such a short time,” he assured this author.
This problem does not afflict its FlashBattery system for electric vehicles. StoreDot claims an electric car can run upto 300 miles (estimated 480 km) on one charge.
Investors also seem to be confident with StoreDot’s technology as it has just announced U$18 million investment from existing investors – Samsung Ventures, Norma Investments Limited, representing Roman Abramovich and Singulariteam – which Myersdorf says is just the beginning of a Series C round.
This raises its total funding to US$66 million.
Tapping into Asia’s potential
StoreDot plans to use the latest funds to scale its Electric Vehicle(EV) business unit. It will increase hiring as well as deploy additional labs to accelerate commercialisation and development of its business.
“We plan to open distribution and sales offices in Korea, China and Taiwan. In fact, we are currently in talks with a Taiwanese company now,” Myersdorf said.
StoreDot appears to have a particular interest in China. On its website, it outlined a report on how it can boost the Chinese government’s efforts in moving its society towards eco-friendly vehicles.
First, it cites China’s plans to increase electric vehicle adoption and curb pollution by subsidising the purchase of five million hybrid cars (up to 20,000 yuan or US$6,900 for each hybrid car), and by spending 100 million yuan (an estimated US$15.6 million) on building electric vehicle charging stations in its main cities.
However, this initiative has reaped little benefits so far, as electric vehicle charging stations are still insufficient. Gasoline prices have also been dropping, giving drivers little incentive to use electric vehicles.
StoreDot then concludes the report by saying that its fast charging FlashBattery technology will be able to tackle these pain points in the industry and increase electric vehicle adoption in China.
In other parts of Asia, although the electric vehicle industry is still nascent, it holds considerable potential.
In an interview with Eco-business, Vincent Wiguna, product manager of Swiss power and automation firm ABB said, “Cities such as Hong Kong, Tokyo and Singapore hold the most potential for EV growth due to their compact size and dense urban population. The key to unlocking this is putting in place the charging infrastructure.”
Like China, Singapore is also encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles. Last year, the Singapore government set up the Electro-Mobility Singapore (EMS) task force. Its goal is to test run an electric vehicle car-sharing programme and find out how to best structure and implement an operating model for large scale electric vehicle adoption.
When/if electric vehicles catch on in these major Asian cities, StoreDot will be able to leverage on the move and become a key player in this industry.
The FlashBattery system is currently still in the beta phase and is expected to go into commercial production in 2016.