Charge time matters. This is the opening line from Atlis Motors, an Arizona-based electric vehicle startup focussed on building electric utility trucks aimed at “real work” for tradies.
Atlis has one utility truck (known as a 4×4 or ute in Australia and a pickup in the US) planned, and as one seriously hefty vehicle it raises the question: how to make sure charging doesn’t take too much time out of the tradie’s day?
Dubbed the XT Pickup Truck, it will start in the US from $US45,000 ($A73,490 converted) and promises some pretty cool features that will make life easier for day-to-day rough and ready driving including four wheel drive with independent and suspension traction on each wheel, four-wheel steering, and drive-by-wire.
Atlis says the XT Pickup with have a top speed of 193km/hr, driving range of up to 800km, ground clearance of 380mm, up to 3.2 tonne trailer towing capacity, 15 tonne gooseneck towing capacity, 2267kg payload capacity, and a claimed battery life of 1.6 million kilometres.
Those are some serious specifications, and it’s not a massive leap to understand a vehicle like this would also need a serious battery, and Atlis is offering its XT Pickup with battery packs ranging from 125kWh up to 250kWh capacity.
With serious batteries though, can come serious problems – physical expansion of cell components, growth of dendrites that slow down charging speed, and of course, the ability to recharge quickly enough at the end of the working day (particularly when driving a company vehicle and not charging at home).
Atlis Motors CEO Mark Hanchett says the EV startup has developed an approach to battery cell and pack design, as well as thermal management systems, to optimise energy capacity and charging ability of its battery packs, that will cut a recharge time – which can take upwards of an hour using current 50-150kW fast charging technology – to a fraction of that.
In a virtual “Battery Day” livestreamed via Youtube on Wednesday (Australian time), Atlis Motors CEO Mark Hanchett described some of the technology the EV startup has been working on, with which they have achieved a 0-100% recharge in under 10 minutes with an early stage prototype.
“Our previous test showed that customers will experience 0-100% fill up of their vehicle in 22 minutes,” said Hanchett. “Since then we’ve gone all the way down to 9 minutes and 26 seconds. That is unprecedented in the industry,” he said.
Design approaches by Atlis include choosing a Z-fold design instead of the typical rolled design inside a cell, which helps to deal with failure points on the ends of the physical structure of a rolled style cell caused by heat expansion.
Packing cells together into 400V modules that can be stacked or laid side by side, Atlis plans on using a pack style that allows energy transfer at both ends of the battery pack so that thermal management of each module is more even.
This will be more efficient that standard pack style used by battery manufacturers today, such as pouch, prismatic and cylindrical packs, says Hanchett.
“The key thing to fast charging a cell is proper thermal management,” he said during the event.
“There’s only 1 degree difference between the centre and edge of the cell, which is incredibly important,” he says.
Along with proprietary secrets that Atlis says will curtail dendrite growth, Hanchett says Atlis’ NMC-based batteries will have a 2,000 cycle life span.
An overarching management system handles cell balancing both inside each module, between modules, as well as heating, cooling, and power distribution, output and charging of the whole battery pack.
To deal with extreme conditions, rather than preconditioning the battery prior to recharging, Atlis is choosing to “float” packs within modules in a totally enclosed and insulated system using a silicon based cooling liquid to reduce the amount of power needed to manage the temperature of the battery and optimise charging speed.
Hanchett says the Atlis battery packs will be also be able to be used for larger class 4, 5, 6, vehicles by expanding pack or stacking more 400V modules to get the range required.
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Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.