UT Austin research could result in EV batteries charging faster, lasting longer

UT researchers may have discovered a way to improve efficiency when it comes to electrical vehicles. This comes as the push for electric vehicles grows nationwide.

Last week, the AISD school board approved a resolution committing the district to an all-electric bus fleet by 2035.

Currently, 7% of the City of Austin’s fleet is on track to be electric by the end of the year. 

At the federal level, the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act will provide thousands of dollars in incentives for Americans that buy EVs.

But the newer technology still has some ways it could improve. Two challenges EVs face are limited range and slow recharging.

"When you're trying to create a higher energy density battery, oftentimes you suffer from even slower charging," said Guihua Yu, a professor in UT Austin’s Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and Texas Materials Institute. 

The thicker the electrode – which helps get power to the device – the more energy it can store. But that means more material for the ions to travel through. 

"How fast or how slow your battery can be charged is determined by how fast your ions can transport or travel across this thickness," said Yu. "So our goal is trying to pack more thick electrodes, but also design the architecture [differently]."

Using a magnetic field, Yu and his team decided to try flipping the stacked materials vertically instead of horizontally in order to create a fast track for the ions.

"The straight channels are the shortest way from one side to the other side," said Zhengyu Ju, a graduate student in Yu’s research group. "It’s five times faster."

It’s much faster, and more powerful, a concept that could be used beyond just EVs.

"If we can design a battery that can give higher energy but also can be faster to charge, it could be used not only just for EVs but for anything that requires these kinds of fast-charging and also high energy systems," said Yu.

Yu and Ju said they are currently doing small-scale battery testing, but they will need to test the concept on larger batteries as well as other electrode materials.