A lithium car battery can power a 320-kilometre drive after just 10 minutes of charging — as long as its temperature is hiked up to 60 °C while it is replenished.

Lithium batteries, which use lithium ions to create a current, charge slowly at room temperature. Charging can take two to three hours, making for a road trip that lasts far too long.

To solve that problem, Chao-Yang Wang and his colleagues at Pennsylvania State University in University Park heated a lithium battery to 60 °C, which allowed the researchers to charge the battery at a high rate in just 10 minutes.

High-rate charging usually encourages the lithium to coat, or plate, one of the battery’s electrodes, blocking the flow of energy and eventually rendering the battery useless. But pre-heating the battery allows fast charging without plating.

A commercial battery charged with the team’s high-temperature, high-speed system retained 80% of its capacity after 1,700 charge–discharge cycles. A battery charged at room temperature could only handle the fast charging for 60 cycles before its electrode became plated.