This reimagined electric Lotus Elise promises 6-minute charging
Promises, promises. The prospect of an electric car that can hook up, recharge and get back on the highway in 10 minutes or less has been previewed, teased and explored for years now, including by some pretty big names. But charging times out on the street still aren't anywhere near that fast. Yet a new promise of sub-10-minute charging still gets the heart racing just a little bit faster. And even if the six-minute charging from British battery company Nyobolt doesn't pan out, it at least gives us an idea of what a ground-up all-electric 2023 Lotus Elise successor might look like, designed by the same hand that penned the original Elise.
Six minutes is still a few times longer than the two-minute average gas fill-up estimated by the American Petroleum Institute, but that's getting into splitting-hair territory. It's quick enough to make it a fast, convenient stop on the highway and unburden automakers from having to exhaust more and more natural resources creating bigger and bigger battery packs just to eke out vaguely respectable driving ranges that apply only to the most optimal of conditions.
And that's why the PhD-enhanced minds behind Nyobolt came together in 2019 to try to create a (much) faster charging battery pack. They've been working on a battery that uses niobium tungsten oxide in its anode, saying the formula enables more power density and the ability to support much faster charging.
If we're to take the company's word at face value, that technology is nearly ready and will go into production next year. We know better than to take any company's word at face value, and won't until it actually delivers on its promise in the real world, but Nyobolt certainly has our attention for the moment.
A six-minute EV battery charge should be enough to get just about anyone's attention, but to be sure, Nyobolt commissioned British car designer Julian Thomson to create an equally attention-grabbing shell with which to hold its battery. As one-time design director at Lotus, Thomson was the lead behind the first-generation Elise launched in 1996. With the Nyobolt EV, Thomas sought to rework the Elise into a modern roadster with more aggressive proportions, bringing on his friends at Callum design and engineering studio to help him execute the vision.
Besides the obvious historical connection, a modern-day Elise provides the perfect style of lightweight, nimble two-seater for highlighting a light, power-dense and ultrafast-charging battery. One can see the connection to the original Series 1 Elise from the late 90s in the rounded headlamps, deep hood vents and prominent side intakes. The added volume can be felt all over the body, except maybe at the rear, which features a broader, flatter backside than the original Elise. The car features carbon fiber bodywork and a removable composite roof panel.
Of course, you have to look below that dazzling silver skin to find the real headline. The car is based around a 35-kWh battery pack that delivers enough juice for about 155 miles (250 km) of range. That's not at all impressive from a range perspective, but when you can charge in six minutes (with existing charging infrastructure), long range doesn't matter so much. And by keeping the battery to a modest size and weight, the team is able to create a roadster that leans closer to the Lotus Elise's ~2,000-lb (907-kg) weight than a Tesla Model S' ~4,500 lb (2,041 kg). Nyobolt's exact quote says the car weighs closer to one tonne (2,200 lb) than two (4,400 lb).
If 155 miles per charge still doesn't sound that impressive, note that it scales to over 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of charge per hour. Double the size of the battery and you could zap in 310 miles (500 km) worth of charge within about 12 minutes. Nyobolt says that the battery tech is just as applicable for higher-capacity packs in trucks, buses and other larger, heavier vehicles and that those vehicles could also charge in minutes once the charging infrastructure matures enough to support 1-MW speeds.
Just as importantly, Nyobolt says its batteries can support those charging speeds without torpedoing cell life. It says it's successfully tested the batteries over 2,000 fast-charge cycles without significant loss of performance.
"Previously, enabling a lightweight fast-charging vehicle was not possible without compromising its lifetime and so people have been relying on costly and large battery packs in the vehicle," said Nyobolt CEO Sai Shivareddy. "With our unique technology, we have achieved a six-minute charge car, and developed smaller battery packs that can deliver more power and charge in less time."
Nyobolt calls its technology "ready to deploy" and plans to begin production in early 2024. Will we be talking about an imminent EV charging revolution sometime thereafter, or will we next revisit Nyobolt when compiling another list of sub-10-minute charging promises that never materialized? We'll have a better idea a year from now.