Herzliya (Israel) (AFP)

Charging its battery in five minutes: this is the goal of an Israeli start-up which, by limiting recharging time, wants to encourage the rise of electric cars and eliminate "the anxiety of autonomy".

Specializing in ultra-fast charging, StoreDot, based in Herzliya near Tel Aviv, has developed a first generation of lithium-ion batteries that fully charge in five minutes, regardless of vehicle capacity.

Hundreds of prototypes are currently being tested by manufacturers.

No need for long charging hours as is currently the case, promises Doron Myersdorf, CEO of StoreDot, for whom reduced charging time is key to overcoming reluctance on electric cars.

"You will no longer be afraid of finding yourself stranded on the highway without energy," he told AFP in the offices of the company he founded in 2012 and which first tested its batteries on phones, drones and scooters, before embarking on electric vehicles.

In 2019, the Nobel Prize in chemistry rewarded the American John Goodenough, the Briton Stanley Whittingham and the Japanese Akira Yoshino for the invention of lithium-ion batteries, which are present today in many everyday technologies.

"This type of lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery is now used everywhere, in telephones, computers and electric vehicles", justified the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awards the prize.

By replacing the graphite of the battery anode with silicon, in particular, "it becomes possible to charge lithium-ion batteries in five minutes", whereas "it was considered impossible" before, says Doron Myersdorf, owner of the battery. '' a doctorate in industrial engineering at Technion, a large Israeli science institute located in Haifa (north).

- "Four to five years" -

For Eric Espérance, a specialist in the automotive sector within the Roland Berger cabinet in Paris, ultra-fast charging is indeed a "revolution" but it will be necessary to wait for these new batteries to appear under the bodywork.

"We are still far from the industrial automotive market," he told AFP.

Especially since the charging stations will also have to be adapted before any use by the general public.

For marketing, "it takes four to five years from the moment you start working on a model, or a vehicle design cycle", explains Doron Myersdorf, whose company has four main investors: the Korean giant Samsung, German automaker Daimler, British oil giant BP, and Japanese electronics maker TDK.

In the laboratory equipped with large glass cages, StoreDot chemists meticulously assemble around a hundred units per week intended for partner manufacturers and possible collaborators in order to present the technology to them.

The team is already working on the second generation of batteries, which is cheaper.

"The battery will cost around $ 100 per kilowatt-hour, which is the price of a traditional lithium-ion battery," says the CEO.

The capacity of a battery varies, depending on the model, between 15kWh and more than 100kWh.

When awarding the Nobel, the Royal Academy of Sciences noted that the lithium-ion battery could "conserve significant amounts of solar and wind energy", paving the way for a possible decarbonization of transport.

Despite the success of the American pioneer Tesla, who has become the darling of the financial markets, the road still seems long: electric cars are still quite expensive and only represented 2.6% of sales in 2019, according to the International Energy Agency. .

There remain the thorny questions of the ecological impact of the extraction and recycling of heavy metals contained in batteries.

"The extraction (of lithium) uses a lot of water and therefore dries up the water tables and causes local ecological catastrophes", explains Mr. Espérance, recalling that a battery "is not eternal but made to have 3000-3500 charge / discharge cycles ".

"We must set up a recycling channel, as there is for lead batteries (...) Today this network is just being set up", he says.

© 2021 AFP