It generally takes around 30 minutes to an hour to fast-charge an electric vehicle – much longer than the refuelling time for petrol or diesel cars. Additionally, charging times for cordless power tools is hindering productivity for tradesmen.
Moreover, during battery manufacturing, cells must go through a time-consuming – and thus costly – charge/discharge process before they are able to be dispatched to module assembly lines. This formation and aging process currently takes over 250 hours, representing an estimated 30% of manufacturing costs.
The challenge is to reduce the charging times of all Li-ion battery processes but particularly motorway recharging, cell manufacturing and for power tools.
The novel MagLiB technology invented at UCL by Dr Tom Heenan, Dr Chun Tan, Professor Paul Shearing and Professor Dan Brett exposes an operational cell to a patent-protected device producing a dynamic magnetic field. This allows a higher average electrical current to be used during charging, which reduces the charging time whilst maintaining the cell’s energy and power density (and hence EV range and acceleration) and battery lifetime.
|By the numbers|
|For the power tools market|
|1 hour +||Typical charge time of a power tool battery pack (versus a 10 min+ average runtime of each battery pack)|
|£3m||Possible revenue from licensing to power tool market within 18 months|
|For battery manufacture|
|£10m||Estimated cost saving per year from one 35 GWh gigafactory for a 1% reduction in cell formation time|
|<1 year||Target breakeven point for incorporating MagLiB technology in a gigafactory|
|30||Number of gigafactories planned globally by 2030 that could benefit from the technology|
|>£40m per year||Possible revenue for MagLiB from cell manufacturing by 2026|
|For electric vehicles|
|68%||Reduction in charging time (or from 1.5 hours to under 30 minutes for 100% charge, see the graph below)|
A Faraday Institution Entrepreneurial Fellowship has funded the technology’s further development and commercialisation as the team aimed to propel the technology into commercial battery applications. Gaussion Ltd is in the process of spinning out from UCL as a result of progress made during the Fellowship. The Royal Society of Chemistry awarded the inventors of the MagLiB technology with the Energy & Environment Award in its Emerging Technologies Competition announced in July 2021.
The technology is now ready for real-world proof-of-concept projects. Early-stage discussions are underway with commercial entities including a major consumer power tool company. In that sector, MagLiB is currently seeking seed funding for a technology demonstration, which it aims to have in place by the end of 2021. It hopes to have license agreements in place for this market in 2023.
The company is currently seeking to establish initial development partnerships to access the cell manufacturing market, with a technology demonstration targeted in 2023. Accessing the EV market is a longer-term goal.
Commercialisation efforts will continue in parallel with continued fundamental research that is required to achieve true optimisation of the device.
Our work has demonstrated substantial charging time improvements and has now been scaled for commercial Li-ion cells. Accelerating recharging at fuelling stations will improve consumer satisfaction by reducing the disparity between the time taken for traditional petrol/diesel car refuelling and EV recharging. Moreover, if the device were to shorten cell manufacturing times, the cost of cell production may reduce, improving EV affordability.”
Dr Thomas Heenan, Entrepreneurial and Research Fellow, Electrochemical Innovation Lab, University College London
This macroscale opportunity is hugely compelling and the solution cuts across chemistry and physics in a really original and fresh way. Our domain expert on the judging panel was particularly impressed with the quality of the science and technology that has gone into the solution, which gave us huge confidence. It’s a truly innovative technology to fast charge such batteries and we felt it’s truly emerging, and therefore this Energy & Environment Award in its Emerging Technologies Competition could have a very high impact, and could allow the team to grow rapidly in line with the maturation of their market. Notable strengths were in the risk mitigation strategy and the very considered way that networking and partnering had been targeted to ensure the innovation could advance.”
Jason Harcup, RSC Energy & Environment category judge, Unilever
A cell charging profile with the device on (red) and off (blue) for a commercially available cell. In this example, use of the novel technology reduces charge time by a factor of three.
A presentation given by Thomas Heenan, Entrepreneurial Fellow, at the Faraday Institution Conference in November 2020.
For more information please contact Dr Thomas Heenan
Success story updated July 2021.