Thursday, June 19, 2008

Epyon: 10-Minute Electric Car Charging


Dutch startup Epyon says it can charge the battery of an electric vehicle in 10 minutes — a mere fraction of the 8-10 hours it can take to charge an electric car in a standard outlet. The two-year-old company’s charging technology, which was developed at the Delft University of Technology, isn’t available yet, but Epyon just raised funding from Canadian VCs Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and European sister firm, SET Venture Partners, to help it move closer to production.

Chrysalix’s managing director, Richard MacKellar, tells us that Epyon’s charging technology will likely first land in large commercial installations, such as an airport with a large fleet of electric vehicles that need to be constantly kept charged. Then in the future MacKellar thinks the startup can try to conquer the consumer, mainstream world. We can imagine a select group of consumers that would be willing to pay extra for a super-fast charging station at home. Particularly if utilities partner with the firm to offer incentives to help split the bill.

We’re not entirely clear on the ins and outs of Epyon’s technology, but the company uses circuitry design, smart software and an energy storage medium and supercapacitors to produce the fast charge. MacKellar explains it as an intelligent system that analyzes each battery cell (instead of the entire battery) and determines how much charge each cell needs.

The technology behind the speedy charge-up is only being built to work with lithium-ion and lithium-phosphate batteries — what most believe will one day be the dominant form of electric vehicle battery tech. And as MacKellar notes, lithium ion and lithium phosphate batteries lend themselves particularly well to the company’s intelligent charging system.

Epyon’s biggest barriers, we feel, are the infrastructure needed to install these chargers and the cost of installation. MacKellar didn’t have any details on the cost, but if it’s too high, it has a very small chance of ever landing in consumer homes. It’s hard to beat a free plug.

With VC money, Epyon is looking to reach two goals: first, work with utilities to do installation demos; second, partner with a leading battery company (A123?). After hearing the company’s pitch, we immediately thought, if we can charge existing batteries so fast, what happens to Project Better Place? Why would we need to swap them out? MacKellar says he sees room for both solutions (hey, they’re nice up there in Canada).

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