The batteries are based on iron-phosphate lithium cells, which help to give the car its incredibly quick recharging capability.
In plans detailed on the MIT project blog site, the MIT team agreed that the only way to create a sought after electric car, was to make one that could fully compete with the traditional petrol guzzling variety.
And in an interview with Network World, the team surmised that the driver needed to be able to fully charge the car batteries in roughly the same time it took to fill a tank of petrol; which up until now, has largely been a dream among electric car enthusiasts.
In fact, the average electric plug-in takes anywhere from eight to 20 hours. It also depends on your power source: US-based 120V power supplies are not exactly charge-friendly.
And while 10 minutes might sound like a few minutes longer than the average fuel stop, tests provided the MIT with evidence that the batteries could be charged even faster - in just five minutes. However, the team later settled on the 10 minute mark for optimum electrochemical stability.
The secret of the fast charging battery
The car, nicknamed elEVen by the team, is not your average electrical vehicle. Utilizing the converted body of a new model Mercury Milan Hybrid, there are 7905 battery cells under the hood of this electric motoring miracle - more than any of the other commercially available electric cars in the world.
The rapid recharge system holds the secret to not just making elEVen an electric car favorite among industry watchers, but the holy grail of electric car enthusiasts.
People often cite the charge time of an electric car as a major turn-off. Motorists simply aren't interested in waiting a day for their car to charge at home. The rapid recharge system provided by A123Systems contains very little electrical resistance. This ultimately makes it easier for the electricity to charge the batteries.
Some firms that specialise in nanotechnology have also experimented with quickcharge technology. Altair Nano are currently the leading rapid recharge battery supplier, but the quick-charge convenience is costly and is yet to filter down into production models. To date, there are no commercially available rapid recharge vehicles on the worldwide market.
And this isn't just a slick, two-seater sports car for the corporate executive. MIT have gone for the family sedan design, a design that will allow the MIT team to compete in the toughest market segment of them all.
elEVen vs Tesla Roaster
The elEVen boasts a range of features on par or better than the attractive Tesla Roadster.
- Top speed: 201 km/h
- Range: 393 km
- Acceleration: 0-97 km/h in 3.9 seconds.
- Battery charge time: 3 hours (240v)
- Battery type: Traditional laptop lithium-ion
- Number of battery cells: 6,831
- Range: 320km range
- Top speed: 161 km/h
- Acceleration: 0-97 km/h in 8.9 seconds
- Battery charge time: 10 minutes.
- Battery type: Iron-phosphate lithium
- Number of battery cells: 7,905
Cost and completion
With each crew member of the team unpaid and working more than 100 hours a week on the project, the MIT team hopes to have the car completed by 2010.
However, the costs of lithium batteries continue to dampen the expectations of electric car early adopters. Electric vehicles are much more expensive because of the batteries, although in time, these prices are expected to go down with larger scales of production and greater demand for the batteries. Even now, not even the bright minds at MIT are able to cut costs.
The entire project is valued at more than US$200,000 with the majority of donated parts. But the most expensive piece is also the car's most crucial: the elEven's battery pack is valued at more than US$80,000 - enough to slow down even the most ardent fans of electric plug-in technology.