Powering Up the Pods: Electric Vehicles Get a Fast Charge

By Staff Reports

(DGwire) – Anyone who visits Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow Airport—or the city of Greenwich, England—might just take a ride in a pod. GATEway pods—the name is short for “Greenwich Automated Transport Environment”—are autonomous electric vehicles designed to whisk travelers around efficiently. They currently take about four hours to charge up, but that could change thanks to an amazing breakthrough in battery technology.

As recently reported by Fleets & Fuels, the breakthrough comes courtesy of ZapGo Ltd., the developer of Carbon-Ion™ (C-Ion®) cells, a fast-charging and safe alternative to lithium-ion batteries. The company is developing a hybrid battery design that allows for ultra-fast charging via a combination of supercapacitor and conventional battery technologies. The company wants to provide both energy-storing battery banks for electric-vehicle charging stations—allowing for minimal impacts on the grid—and battery packs for the electric vehicles themselves.

“In tests of our Carbon-Ion technology, we have managed to reduce the recharge time for pods from four hours to 35 seconds,” says Stephen Voller, CEO of ZapGo. “Our C-Ion packs are designed to fit under the seats and supplement the pods’ existing lead-acid batteries.”

The 35-second charge time involves the use of existing 30-kilowatt charging points, notes Fleets & Fuels. Charging downtime is effectively eliminated, the publication reports, as it takes approximately 40 seconds for the pod doors to open and for passengers to board the vehicles. The C-Ion batteries charge the pods’ onboard lead-acid batteries and provide boost power when the vehicle first starts or goes uphill. The company is also working on a hybrid system with C-Ion technology enabling the fast charging of lithium-ion batteries.

ZapGo’s C-Ion technology is being developed as the first cell of its kind that combines the characteristics of a supercapacitor and—within a few years—is anticipated to match the energy density of lithium-ion batteries, while also being safe and recyclable. Unlike lithium-ion, which works by an electrochemical reaction, ZapGo involves storing electrons with no electrochemical reaction. This means there is nothing to get used up, so ZapGo cells can last through many more charge and discharge cycles than lithium-ion, while staying safe and not at risk for a fire.

ZapGo’s platform technology is planned to be incorporated initially into products such as electric bikes, cordless power tools and robotic cleaners—available for sale starting in 2018—where the recharge time will be reduced from hours to sub-five minutes.

“The future of battery technology looks very exciting indeed, and we believe Carbon-Ion may have a big role to play in the coming revolution,” Voller adds.

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