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Electric-Car Maker Touts 10-Minute Fill-up

Skeptics say substation-scale power levels needed are unrealistic

3 min read

1 November 2007—Thanks to an uncommonly stable lithium chemistry and high-surface-area nanopatterned electrodes, Altair Nanotechnologies’ lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles (EVs) charge up fast. Very fast. One of the Reno, Nev.�based battery developer’s 35-kilowatt-hour packs, capable of propelling an EV pickup truck for 160 kilometers, can fully charge in just 10 minutes—a feat that would be downright dangerous with most lithium batteries. What remains to be seen is whether such rapid charging will prove practical on the street. Although some EV developers, battery experts, and utilities see a breakthrough that will take battery-powered EVs mainstream, others see a technological dead end [See ” California to Rule on Fate of EVs”, IEEE Spectrum, November 2007.

At issue are the awesome power levels required. To charge a 35-kWh battery in 10 minutes requires 250 kilowatts of power—five times as much as the average office building consumes at its peak. That rules out rapid charging at home. Even rapid-charge ”filling stations” stretch the imagination, as you’d need a megawatt power feed—generally available only at electrical substations—to simultaneously operate four power pumps. That is a stretch too far for even some staunch EV proponents. ”I look at 10-minute charging as a gimmick because of the power requirements,” says Andrew Burke, an EV engineering pioneer at the University of California, Davis.

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Chinese Joint Venture Will Begin Mass-Producing an Autonomous Electric Car

With the Robo-01, Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely aim for a fully self-driving car

4 min read
A black car sits against a white backdrop decorated with Chinese writing. The car’s doors are open, like a butterfly’s wings. Two charging stations are on the car’s left; two men stand on the right.

The Robo-01 autonomous electric car shows off its butterfly doors at a reveal to the media in Beijing, in June 2022.

Tingshu Wang/Reuters/Alamy

In October, a startup called Jidu Automotive, backed by Chinese AI giant Baidu and Chinese carmaker Geely, officially released an autonomous electric car, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition. In 2023, the car will go on sale.

At roughly US $55,000, the Robo-01 Lunar Edition is a limited edition, cobranded with China’s Lunar Exploration Project. It has two lidars, a 5-millimeter-range radar, 12 ultrasonic sensors, and 12 high-definition cameras. It is the first vehicle to offer on-board, AI-assisted voice recognition, with voice response speeds within 700 milliseconds, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8295 chip.

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