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Climate change remains one of the main societal challenges humanity is facing in the 21st century (Urry, 2015). Therefore, the Paris Climate Agreement was signed internationally to combat global warming by reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (UN, 2015). With the guidelines following from the agreement, countries enhanced their efforts to reduce GHG emissions by creating new policies for the implementation of sustainable technologies. Following these efforts an impulse was given to the automotive sector and the transition towards sustainable mobility was stimulated, especially for Electric Vehicles (EV). This shift towards EV is an important turning point as road transport emits over 13% of the GHG in Europe (European Parliament, 2019). Yet, only 3,3% of the total cars in the Netherlands are either BEV or EV, and still the Netherlands is considered as one of the top countries in terms of EV adoption (CBS, 2020; Statista, 2020). Hence, it is evident that there are still barriers for consumers to adopt EV.
A major technical barrier for consumers is the charging time of electric vehicles compared to refueling of fossil fuel vehicles. Currently, the fastest charging EV can fully charge in 20 minutes, but the average EV only charges in 30 minutes. Whilst car manufactures might call 20 minutes ‘fast charging’, we as student team InMotion say: ‘fast charging is still to slow!’. Therefore, InMotion is developing a technology by the alias ‘Electric Refueling’, meaning that the technology enables charging times equal to those of refueling fossil fuel vehicles. Ultimately, this would create a level-playing field in terms of charging vs. refueling and thus remove the adoption barrier for consumers. Consequently, this would stimulate the energy transition in the automotive sector, which is the primary mission of student team InMotion. However, InMotion’s ‘electric refueling’ is not there yet as technological challenges lie ahead.
However, in August 2021 InMotion reached an important milestone by charging a battery pack with the same capacity as a Tesla model 3 in 12 minutes, almost twice as fast! Of course, the attentive reader might now wonder why Tesla isn’t charging this fast as market leader. To put our technology into context, phones already have fast charging, but you’ll notice that during charging it gets quite hot. Now, imagine a battery 1000 times larger used in our race car and you understand what kind of heat is released during fast charging. The mechanical parts of a car can easily withstand the heat, however, inherently the batteries are degrading when they overheat. Consequently, the capacity of the battery can decrease 10% per cycle and thus also the range of an EV decreases rapidly with high power charging. Yet, a solution to overheating is obviously to start cooling, and thus InMotion’s technology is based on innovative cooling methods to subtract the heat from the battery pack. Hence, the better one is at cooling the battery pack and efficiently subtracting heat, the faster one can charge.
The next milestone for InMotion is to charge within 7,5 minutes, which is ground breaking in contrast to what is possible today. This process entails the design of a new battery pack and making the step from module-level cooling to cell-level cooling, gaining cooling efficiency. Moreover, InMotion is researching, testing and validating innovative cooling methods of which some have never been used in automotive. Of course, all research and development of these novelties requires a highly multidisciplinary team with talented and motivated students to push cooling technology to the edge.
The student team InMotion is multidisciplinary as it consists of students from Eindhoven University of Technology and Fontys University of Applied Sciences with engineering as well as business backgrounds. Currently, 16 full-time students are taking a gab year to put as much effort as possible into the project. Besides, additional students work part-time and on project basis. And did I mention that we actually build this fast charging battery pack in a Le Mans Prototype 3 race car? It is the perfect testing platform, driving at the limits whilst also being physically appealing to students, partners and the public to gain attention for our technology. Ultimately, InMotion envisions to drive the 24h of Le Mans and showcase our Electric Refueling technology to the world!
1. CBS (2020). Car fleet growing faster than population. Retrieved at 22-09-2021, from: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2020/10/car-fleet-growing-faster-than-population
2. European Parliament (2019). CO2-emissies door auto’s: feiten en cijfers. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/nl/headlines/society/20190313STO31218/co2-emissies-van-auto-s-feiten-en-cijfers-infografiek
3. Statista (2020). Total fleet of electric passenger cars in the Netherlands from 2013 to 2020. Retrieved at 22-09-2021, from: https://www.statista.com/statistics/654594/number-of-electric-passenger-cars-in-the-netherlands-by-type/
4. UN. (2015). The Paris Agreement: essential elements. Retrieved 12 November 2020, from: https://unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement
5. Urry, J. (2015). Climate change and society. In Why the social sciences matter (pp. 45-59). Palgrave Macmillan, London.