New Software Will Improve Charging Times by 30 Percent

Laurance Yap
March 30, 2024
New technology co-developed by Volvo and Breathe Battery Technologies means that future Volvos will be able to charge much faster than they do now – without any hardware changes or additional environmental impact. Will the software be available for existing Volvo EVs?
electric vehicle with the exterior parts removed revealing the technical components of the car

Faster EV Charging on the Go

Electric cars offer their drivers a lot of advantages, such as a smooth, quiet driving experience and significantly lower fueling costs if they charge at home. But for many Americans, the ability to charge on the go – and to do so quickly – remains a barrier to making the switch.

Drivers who frequently travel long distances want easy access to charging infrastructure, and they don’t want to wait. Rapid progress is being made in deploying high-speed charging across the country, and now, automakers like Volvo are working on software that will help EVs charge much faster than they do now.

EV charging software

New Software for Improved Charging Performance

Volvo has partnered with Breathe Battery Technologies, a UK-based startup focused on improving battery performance and technology. Breathe has developed and patented new charging software for EVs that uses algorithms to significantly speed up charging times. The companies claim that the new software will reduce the time it takes to charge a fully-electric Volvo by up to 30 percent.

Faster charging times will result in an enhanced charging and driving experience for Volvo’s customers, and will have the side benefit of freeing up more public charging capacity, as Volvos can fill up and drive away more quickly. Volvo and Breathe also say that the faster charging times won’t impact the health of the battery across its lifecycle. The software won’t negatively impact the battery’s ability to hold a charge over time, or reduce the life of the battery.

“The investment and commercial partnership with Breathe helps us address a familiar pain point for electric car customers and makes our charging performance even more competitive,” said Ann-Sofie Ekberg, who heads the Volvo Cars Tech Fund, the company’s venture capital arm. “Faster charging times, in the range where customers typically fast charge, represent a major step in the right direction as we continue to boost electric mobility and make it available to more people.”

Software-Defined Batteries

Traditional EV charging relies on pre-set rules to control the flow of energy from a charger into the battery, filling the battery in “steps,” which can lengthen the duration of a charge. Breathe’s software is adaptive, and can control the charging process in real time, taking into account which cells in the battery can receive a charge the fastest, as well as environmental conditions.

A side benefit of Breathe’s software is that, by looking at the state of individual cells and identifying which ones can charge fastest at any given time, lithium plating is avoided. Lithium plating can sometimes be caused during rapid charging, and can slightly harm the battery’s performance and lifespan.

The Breathe software will roll out on upcoming Volvo models in the next couple of years. What’s not yet clear is whether Volvo will be offering the battery software as an over-the-air or a dealer-uploaded update for existing Volvo EVs like the C40, XC40 Recharge, and EX90.

Volvo’s Electric Ambitions

Volvo’s investment in Breathe and its software is another step in the company’s plan to fully electrify its lineup by 2030, and to become a fully-circular business by 2040. Since the software is already fully compatible with the hardware in Volvo’s EVs, the company says that scaling the technology is easy – and will enable its electric vehicle sales to increase significantly in coming years.

The technology also means that increased battery and charging performance is achieved without the need to change the design of battery packs or mine extra materials – which means there’s no additional environmental impact.

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