An Israeli company that has developed a fast electric vehicle (EV) charging system based on kinetic flywheel technology is pressing ahead with the first commercial deals in Europe, the US, and Israel.
The system, developed by Zooz Power, formerly known as Chakratec (zooz means “move” in Hebrew), takes energy from the grid to spin eight steel wheels per unit, 17,000 times per minute. Each wheel weighs around half a ton. The process converts electrical energy into kinetic energy. When a vehicle comes to recharge, the spinning is slowed down to change that kinetic energy back into electrical energy and to flush it into the vehicle’s battery at such an intensity that the battery fully recharges in around 15 minutes.
Zooz Power CEO Boaz Weizer likened the intense recharging boost delivered by the company’s system to flushing a toilet to release lots of water quickly.
By using physics rather than chemistry, the kinetic recharger avoids environmental issues such as massive water use and pollution associated with lithium extraction. Lithium, a mineral, is used for lithium-ion batteries, the most common storage vessel today.
And unlike lithium batteries, which weaken over time (think of the smartphone), the kinetic system keeps on producing the same level of electricity, Weizer said.
According to one sustainability analyst, the Zooz Power system’s carbon footprint, from production and supply chains through operation and recycling or landfill burial, produces 23 times less carbon dioxide equivalent emissions per kilowatt hour (kWh) than a lithium-ion battery – 0.0027 kilograms of CO₂ equivalent compared to 0.0620 kilograms for the battery.
Over a 15-year lifecycle, the Zooster-100 draws 666,667 kWh from the grid to create 600,000 kWh of kinetic energy and releases 540,000 kWh of recharge. Weizer explained that all energy storage systems had losses and that a 20% loss was “quite good.”
Zooz Power aims to provide fast EV charging in areas where the electricity grid is not yet sufficiently powerful to give that quick boost.
Weizer likened the current period of transition from combustion engine vehicles to EVs to the one that accompanied the introduction of cellphones. In the latter case, there was poor reception outside of the main urban centers until antennas could be installed countrywide, a process that took time.
“In Israel, you can find Tesla superchargers at the Azrieli mall in Tel Aviv,” he said. “But there are none between Tel Aviv and Beersheba [in southern Israel]. We need a mix of solutions as the grid is upgraded.”
Five Zooster-100 units will be installed at five commercial and leisure locations in Germany – two near Frankfurt; two in Herrenberg, some 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) south of Stuttgart; and a fifth at a location yet to be determined. They will be funded by a German investment company that thinks there are more profits to be made by selling the electricity from these units than from solar power installations.
At present, Zooz Power is at an advanced stage of safety certification. It hopes to start the German rollout by the end of the year.
Israel’s first Zooz Power recharging unit will be installed at a Dor Alon gas station at Segula, Petah Tikva, in central Israel, also towards the end of this year. That is in cooperation with Dor Alon and Afcon Electric Transportation.
In the US, two pilots are planned for early next year — one in Rock Hill, South Carolina, with the Arko corporation, a large operator of convenience stores, and the other with Blink Charging at a location near Miami.
Zooz Power’s first pilot has been operating at Vienna’s airport for proof of concept since 2018.
Earlier this year, the US passed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will see $7.5 billion pumped into EV charging, along with over $7 billion to support the mineral supply chain for the domestic production of EV batteries.
In line with US President Joe Biden’s commitment to creating a national network of 500,000 EV chargers by 2030, all US states have already submitted EV infrastructure deployment plans.
According to Weizer, four ultra-fast 150 kilowatt charging stations will be made available every 50 miles (80 kilometers) along all US interstate roads between this year and 2026.
In Israel, according to the Knesset Research and Information Center, there were 15,000 EVs at the end of 2021, but just 791 recharging units.
Of these, 61% were in the center of the country and, according to Weizer, most of them require anything from an hour to three hours to recharge a car battery fully. The number of ultra-fast 150-kilowatt chargers numbers just a few dozen, he said.
“At some point, we will have too many EV vehicles on the road and lots of annoyed drivers who will tell their friends and family not to buy EVs anymore [because it’s so difficult to charge them],” he said
“Early EV owners had their own parking space and could charge from their home,” Weizer went on.
“Today, if there are 15 EV owners in a residential block with EV chargers, the first five will be able to charge overnight, but the sixth might find his or her vehicle uncharged in the morning. You need an ultra-fast public charging station like ours for those who can’t charge at night and need a quick solution in the morning.”