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Researchers develop first-of-its-kind 'universal' EV charger that could revolutionize how we drive: 'Like an emergency kit'

"The charger could be used as a portable unit — essentially like an emergency kit."

Universal charger that could revolutionize how we drive

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Experts from India may have discovered another breakthrough in the quest for extremely fast-charging electric vehicles

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT) are working on a universal charger that can juice up 120- to 900-volt batteries, according to IEEE Spectrum. If the concept takes off, the charger could simplify the power-up process for the 77 million EVs forecast by Statista to be on the road by 2025.  

Common EVs on the market, including the Nissan Leaf, range in voltage from about 240 to 450, but EV innovators are promising batteries at 600 to 800 volts or more, IEEE Spectrum reported.

"However, charging these high-voltage batteries with existing chargers degrades the efficiency, due to operating at twice the rated voltage," Deepak Ronanki, an assistant professor at IIT who is working on the project, said

Higher voltage generally results in more range. The U.S. Transportation Department reported that a 120-volt EV could take hours to charge, typically at home, and only generating a handful of miles per hour of charge. A direct current, fast-charging connection (400 to 1,000 volts) can provide up to 240 miles on less than an hour's charge, typically at a public station, per the department. 

Though new innovations seemingly emerge daily, some are promising more than 150 miles with only minutes of charge time. 

Ronanki and others at IIT want to make sure the charging tech is inclusive to the growing voltage range, eliminating the need for stations dedicated to specific voltages.  

Their tech works via a two-stage process, termed "boost-buck." Simply put, the charger can match — boosting and bucking the charge based on what each battery can handle — from 120 to 900 volts. 

Ronanki and fellow researcher Harish Karneddi have proved the safety of their charger at that voltage range with greater than 94% efficiency, according to the Spectrum report. 

"The charger could be used as a portable unit — essentially like an emergency kit — in case of a vehicle breakdown or deep discharge of the battery pack," Ronanki said.

Next, the experts need to finalize patents and forge partnerships with other EV industry businesses to reach the tech mainstream. They also plan to perfect the device for lower-voltage contraptions, including electric bikes, scooters, and small cars. 

"We are currently working on improving the charger efficiency in this voltage operating region," Ronanki said

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