Is 5 Minutes the "Magic Number" for Quick-Charge Electric Vehicles?

Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD



Jason Lomberg, North American Editor, PSD

­That appears to be the case, if recent press is any indication – like Enovix Corporation’s battery cells achieving a 5-minute charge.

The company in question, a big player in advanced silicon-anode lithium-ion battery development and production, just announced that their 0.27 Ah Electric Vehicle (EV) test cells could charge from 0-80% in as little as 5.2 minutes and achieve a greater than 98% charge capacity in under 10 minutes.

Enovix’s Co-Founder, CEO and President, Harrold Rust, summed up their announcement’s implications rather succinctly when he said that “Fast charge capability can accelerate mass adoption of EVs and we’ve been able to demonstrate a level of performance that meets and exceeds many OEM roadmaps…EV manufacturers are in pursuit of batteries that support longer range, while the public and private sectors work to increase EV driver access to fast chargers.”

He's absolutely correct. No matter how many studies prove that the average EV electric range is well within the average commute (30-40 miles), we’ll never fully defeat “range anxiety” and hasten the mainstream adoption of EVs until their infrastructure is in place and they can be “refueled” as easily as internal combustion engines.

And a huge facet of that last part is recharge speed – hence, the laser focus on quick-charge technologies and even on more unconventional strategies like battery swaps (which I recently argued was a dead-end).

Curiously, 5 minutes seems to be a popular target for quick-charge technologies. We just covered a prototype cable from Purdue University that could bring EV charging in-line with internal combustion engine refueling.

As we reported then, Purdue’s cable can deliver a current 4.6 times that of the fastest available EV chargers on the market today by removing up to 24.22 kilowatts of heat, and if you could configure a charger to safely deliver 1,400-amperes, then you could – theoretically – achieve sub-5 minute recharge speeds.

But there’s the key word again – theoretically. In the case of Purdue’s cable, no EV battery on the market can handle 1,400 amperes, so the cable hasn’t been tested on actual vehicles.

And with Enovix’s battery cells, it’s a huge leap between (admittedly exciting) developments like this and applying it in practice.

Obviously, no EV on the roads has that sort of capability yet. According to Kelley Blue Book, the fastest-charging EV is the Lucid Air, a 4-door sedan with a max range of 520 miles and a charging capability of approximately 20 miles per minute.

But the Lucid Air (and the second and third fastest-charging EVs) is nowhere close to “mainstream.” Never mind the $77K+ starting price, which excludes it from a large segment of the market. It hasn’t even fully deployed yet, with delivery of the base model set for the end of the year.

The Enovix battery cells’ 5-minute charge time is very exciting news, but I’ll reserve judgment for when it shows up on the road. For now, I remain cautiously optimistic.