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    Thermal Modulation, the Answer to Increased Charging Speed?

      No matter how many people you talk to about EVs, you will always have someone say EVs are dead till they charge as fast as internal combustion automobiles, Thermal Modulation might be the answer.

    Welcome to learning about EC Power, a team of researchers from Penn State that started in 2011 as a lithium-ion battery modeling software company. The need for real data to validate battery use in EVs led this team to build a small prototyping facility focused on software development.

    During this manufacturing process and testing of cells for model validation, EC Power realized that temperature is everything to a lithium-ion cell. Modern EVs from Tesla, GM, VW, Ford, Kia, and Hyundai all have a fast-charging option in that when you select this mode, it preps the battery to a certain temperature to ensure maximum speed of the battery pack.

    EC Power wondered if there was a better way to control the temperature rapidly, efficiently and precisely without having to run a prep software program to prepare the battery for fast charging. Tesla can take from 15 minutes to 30 minutes plus to precondition their battery pack for supercharging or what the rest of the industry calls fast charging.

    EC Power created, patented, and is now going into production to prove thermal modulation.

    After selling their AutoLion software, EC Power has focused exclusively on developing the increased possibilities that thermal modulation can provide.

    What is Thermal Modulation?

    EC Power Answer - Thermal Modulation Cell Technology (TMCT) heats cells from the inside out. By heating inside out, not outside in as current EVs from around the world does, Lithium-ion cell achieve thermal modulation rates >60 times faster than current EVs thermal management can achieve.

    EC Power believes the major barrier to widespread EV adoption is the performance loss of battery packs in cold weather. The colder the weather, the more loss in range. Currently, all EV OEMs use some form of air or liquid conditioning of the battery pack. While this works, it also draws a significant amount of battery power to make this battery thermal optimization work.

    EC Power has tested and proven that by adding TMCT to conventional Li-ion cells, they have demonstrated that nominal performance is regained in less than a minute, even starting from -50 °C that some areas of the globe reach during normal wintertime.  

    Extreme fast charging is recognized as a crucial feature needed for broad EV adoption. Additionally, fast charging enables the use of smaller battery packs, saving resources and lowering off-the-lot cost for auto companies. The Department of Energy has a funding program that specifically called for extreme fast charging technology where 200 miles of range is added to the battery pack within 10 minutes for at least 500 consistent charging cycles.

    Lithium-ion cells can be safely charged at specific speeds based on the temperature of the cell. Inside cold cells lithium ions simply move more slowly, increasing the risk for battery degradation and slow charging. This is called by some in the industry as a stuck lithium cell increasing early degradation and possible fires where one sees a lithium-ion battery pack catch on fire and consistently restart burning after having been put out.

    EC Power has pointed out that the global EV OEMs have implemented a clever external heating system to regulate the battery pack of an EV to enable what EC Power calls fast(ish) charging. This preconditioning or pre-battery preparation can take form 20 to 45 minutes. The large the battery pack, the longer the time to precondition the battery pack for optimum charging speed.

    EC Power has proven in actual testing of real-world lithium-ion cells that their TMCT can make a cell reach maximum safe fast charging temperatures within 30 seconds.

    EC Power latest press release states that a third-party evaluated their TMCT Lithium-ion cells for their ability to meet the DOE's extreme fast charging requirement's goal. This third-party company stated that EC Power cells were the only product to EXCEED the DOE's standard of 500 consistent Extreme fast charging with only a 10% or less loss of capacity.

    EC Power Lithium-ion cells still had ~90% of their capacity after 1200 extreme fast charging cycles and >90% capacity remaining after 2,500 fast charging cycles of 10 minutes for 200 miles of range.

    A major question that this brings up is How does TMCT fit into existing battery cell production?

    Lithium-ion cell manufacturing is a cutthroat business, tight cost margins, high cost of recalls and not surprising the resistance by OEMs to implement new technology.

    EC Power states that TMCT technology is manufactured using conventional existing equipment. As they stated at the start of the article, think of lithium-ion cells as books and TMCT is a bookmark, only 10 times thinner, a bookmark that turbocharges the book per EC Power.

    Solid-state and lithium-metal batteries have great potential for greater energy density, cheaper manufacturing and enhanced safety over today's conventional Lithium-Ion liquid battery cells. One of the things that change with these newer batteries is higher operating temperatures according to EC Power to achieve these new power performance and safe fast charging.

    EC Power sees no other technology or battery company that can heat lithium cells as efficiently, evenly and quickly as thermal modulation.

    EC Power sees an exciting battery technology future as they contribute to the battery future.

    A future of EVs that have a 200- or 400-mile range battery pack that charges in 10 or 20 minutes, no different than today's ICE autos. 

    PENN STATE RESEARCH POST

    EC Power team believes that OEMs could switch from a 150kWh battery pack to a 50kWh battery pack using TMCT eliminating range anxiety.

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