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Flow Batteries Could Revolutionise Electric Vehicle Infrastructure

Ross Kelly


Electric Vehicle Flow Battery

Researchers from the University of Glasgow suggest that electric cars could be charged and operational far quicker by using a revolutionary type of energy storage. 

A new type of energy storage system could revolutionise electric car charging times and energy storage, according to researchers from the University of Glasgow.

In a paper published this week, chemists from the university say they have developed a ‘flow’ battery system, which uses a nano-molecule that is capable of storing electric power or hydrogen gas.

The ‘hybrid-electric-hydrogen’ flow battery can store and release energy on demand as either electric of hydrogen gas that can be used as a fuel.

Increased Energy Storage

According to the study, when a concentrated liquid containing nano-molecules is made, the amount of energy it can store increases by almost 10 times. This energy can then be released as electricity or hydrogen, meaning that the system itself can be used flexibly in a number of situations which require fuel or electric power.

The benefits of this system, researchers say, are immense; meaning that electric cars can be charged in a matter of seconds due to the material being a pumpable liquid. It also means that electric car batteries could be recharged in the same amount of time as petrol cars can be filled.

The old battery liquid would also be removed during the process and recharged so as to be used again.

Energy Revolution

This method was developed by Professor Lee Cronin, the Regius Chair of Chemistry at the University of Glasgow, along with Dr Mark Symes and Dr Jia Jia Chen. The three researchers believe that this could pave the way for an electric car and energy storage revolution.

Professor Cronin said: “For future renewables to be effective, high capacity and flexible energy storage systems are needed to smooth out the peaks and troughs in supply.

“Our approach will provide a new route to do this electrochemically and could even have application in electric cars where batteries can still take hours to recharge and have limited capacity.”

Professor Cronin also noted that the “very high energy density” of the material could both increase the range of electric cars and strengthen the resilience of energy storage systems.

Infrastructural Pressure

In July, the energy regulator Ofgem warned that electric car owners across the UK could face higher bills if they choose to charge their vehicle during peak hours. Due to current grid balancing arrangements, heavy costs could be passed on to consumers, it said.

This energy strategy suggests that the UK relies on an increasingly antiquated infrastructure that is not yet ready to support future demands. However, according to Professor Cronin, the methods developed by the University of Glasgow researchers could help to ease the strain on the UK’s energy grid, helping to “keep the lights on at times of peak demand.”

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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