It is not always easy to find a charging station for your electric car. And once you have found one, charging the battery generally takes more than 30 minutes. Even several hours if you charge at home. The Israeli start-up Chakratec shows us that there is another way. The inventors from Lod have invented an energy storage technology that enables charging in just a few minutes. The concept is a kinetic battery based on an innovative flywheel concept.
Company co-founder Nir Zohar spoke to Innovation Origins about his start-up:
How did you come up with the idea of founding the start-up?
Each of us has had our own high-tech career. We met up again about 7 years ago and decided to launch a start-up which would benefit humankind and not be just another “internet application” start-up. As such, we understood that energy storage is under focus in the energy industry. However, this market is dominated by Chinese battery manufacturers. That’s why we did some research and decided to distinguish ourselves by providing a kinetic battery energy storage device that uses the best from the flywheel and battery worlds. Our storage has unlimited charging cycles, instantaneous reactions and a high C rating. Plus it is environmentally friendly since it is not toxic and does not pollute like chemical batteries do.
What makes your product Chakratec so special compared to your competitors and what problems does it solve?
Shorter EV charging times are achieved by using higher power chargers (150 kW, 350 kW and more). To date, fast and ultra-fast EV chargers can only be installed where enough grid power is available (i.e. near high voltage lines – transmission grids). This leaves most roads without viable or cost-effective EV fast-charging solutions. This creates significant barriers for EV access in those areas. Upgrading infrastructure involves enormous costs and lengthy periods of time. Which is often due to tedious bureaucratic approval and rejection processes.
In order to overcome these challenges, there is a need to add local energy storage for grid support of fast charging. These storage systems must withstand multiple high-power charging and discharging cycles. The use of chemical (lithium) batteries is feasible, but multiple charging cycles shorten their lifespan. This leads to frequent battery replacements, making this a costly and rather bleak, environmentally unfriendly solution.
Chakratec has developed a unique kinetic energy storage technology, which enables unlimited high-powered charge and discharge cycles. Utilizing our proprietary Kinetic Power Booster technology, Chakratec facilitates the deployment of fast-charging stations anywhere, including locations which have a weak grid. Our multi-patented technology stores the electricity as kinetic energy in a fast-rotating flywheel. This technology presents two major advantages:
• Unlimited high-power charge and discharge cycles (more than 200,000) without degradation over the full 20 year lifespan of the system.
• The non-chemical flywheel is a sustainable and reusable system, as opposed to toxic and polluting chemical batteries.
What was the biggest hurdle you had to overcome?
Developing a high-speed flywheel which operates on the boundaries of physical limits is not a walk in the park. It took us about 5 years until we succeeded in setting up a system. And then take it out of the lab and into the field to our first customer, the energy utility in Vienna – Wien Energie.
What motivates you to go to work every morning?
Working at the cutting edge of mechanical and electrical technology and knowing that if we succeed, we will bring ‘green’ energy storage to the world. That’s what fuels our daily activities.
Was there a moment when you wanted to give up?
And vice versa: What made you particularly proud?
We are very proud to have been nominated once again for the eMove360 2019 award after we won the 2017 award for best storage technology. Over the years, we have won several other significant awards, such as the NREL outstanding venture award 2018 and the innovation challenge in Austria. The latter eventually lead to our first project in Austria with Wien Energie and the Vienna International Airport. Nowadays, our systems are being implemented by leading energy and automotive companies in Austria, Italy, and the Czech Republic. We were chosen to work with leading European players like the car manufacturer, SKODA AUTO, of the VW group and ENEL X.
What can we expect from Chakratec in the coming years?
We are working hard to “educate” the market and to introduce our groundbreaking kinetic technology. To date, we are the only company in the world who is actively co-locating flywheels and EV charging units. We see a major change in perception from year to year, mostly thanks to our main competitors – chemical batteries. Which, over time, are not sustainable in economical or environmental terms when it comes to EV charging with high-powered, multi-cycle applications. Even though these are currently cheaper than our solution. We hope to keep attracting attention from the market. And also to partner with more leading players, as we have started to do in the last two years.
What is your vision for Chakratec?
We are constantly applying our vision in order to access a high level of the renewable energy market by providing economic and environmental electricity storage solutions. We want to become the storage technology of choice, the “go-to” technology for high-end applications. As well as contribute to the environment by reducing CO2 emissions and reduce the pollution of the toxic chemical batteries.
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