Science Could Solve 2 of Electric Vehicles’ Biggest Problems

Scientists say electric vehicles could charge faster and use smaller batteries with the help of machine learning.
Written by Andrew Kidd
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Sep 23, 2022
Of the problems preventing the universal adoption of
electric vehicles
, two issues stand at the forefront: pricing and charge times.
But with the help of a little science, electric vehicles could be made to be cheaper and to
charge faster
.

Faster-charging, cheaper vehicles

Per
MarketWatch
, government researchers say they've discovered how to reduce the charging time of existing electric vehicle batteries to one-third of what it is now with the help of artificial intelligence.
No, your vehicle won't become sentient and usher in the singularity. But it could help calculate your car's ideal charging speed and energy intake—and possibly save you money on your next electric vehicle purchase.

Optimize charge time with machine learning

Batteries are limited by how long you want them to keep them working—their functional lifespan. 
And to maintain that lifespan, you can't over-stress the battery by pumping too much power into it too quickly; the batteries automakers use in their electric vehicles and hybrids typically limit the speed at which they draw energy while charging.
Several electric cars today are capable of charging more than 90 percent in about 10 minutes without harming the battery. Any faster and you risk some damage that reduces its overall battery life.
Researchers propose that automakers use machine learning to build batteries that charge more efficiently by determining the best speed at which to charge while limiting stress on the battery itself.
Automakers could theoretically create charging stations capable of optimizing charges as well, raising or lowering the speed of charge depending on the individual battery.
Cutting a relatively quick charge time of 10 minutes by two-thirds gives you a 0-to-90-percent charge time of just a few minutes—comparable to a visit to the gas station to fill up an internal-combustion vehicle.

Shrinking batteries

Optimizing charge times to such an extent would not only appeal to more consumers still hesitant to adopt an electric vehicle; it could also see the cost of electric vehicles falling as well.
Faster-charging batteries beget smaller batteries in general; if automakers can optimize charge speed, they'd likely install lighter—and therefore cheaper—batteries in vehicles.
Without the anxiety of having to take a good chunk out of your schedule to charge your car, you might be less stressed by the notion of a car with a relatively shorter range.

Will it happen?

Look, anything can happen if there are significant cost savings at stake. 
While MW notes that this tech is still a few years out, automakers are already facing serious supply shortages of the
rare minerals
that go into the batteries already installed in their electric vehicles.
It's not a stretch that companies like Ford or GM would jump at the chance to reduce the amount of necessary-yet-pricey components they need for their batteries.
But charging infrastructure needs to catch up, first. While charging stations are popping up all over North America, their availability varies by location. 
A city in Iowa might be lucky to have a handful of chargers, while you might accidentally bump into one in California if you're not careful.

Save in the meantime

While we all wait for electric vehicles to become more affordable, you could already be saving money on your car insurance.
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Kemper
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Nationwide
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State Auto
Safeco
Travelers
Metlife
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