Does fast charging ruin the battery?

There is no doubt that fast charging is one of the best features that we can find in a smartphone, laptop, or other similar device. Today, in fact, there are technologies capable of supplying 100% of the battery in less than 10 minutes. The operation of fast charging systems is also quite easy to understand. Now, is fast charging safe? Can this technology degrade the battery?

First of all, and before knowing if fast charging can degrade the battery, it is important to know what battery technology is included in most devices. Today’s smartphones, for example, have lithium-ion batteries, which offer several advantages over conventional batteries. They are, for example, more durable, and they also charge faster. They also offer more range in a more compact package. However, lithium ion batteries have a drawback: their capacity decreases slightly each time a charge cycle is completed.

A charge cycle, specifically, is counted when the battery is charged from 0% to 100%. Of course, it does not necessarily have to be a continuous load. For example, if one day your smartphone consumes half the battery (up to 50%), you charge it to 100%, and the next day you do exactly the same process, it would count as one charge cycle, and not two.

Devices also have maximum charging cycles that determine battery life. For example, according to Apple, a MacBook Pro can handle up to 1,000 charge cycles before its battery starts to show obvious signs of wear and tear – and its battery life starts to be subpar.

Can fast charging speed up battery degradation?

But can fast charging shorten battery life or speed up that degradation? A study carried out by a team of researchers from Purdue University, United States, reveals that fast charging is indeed capable of damaging battery electrodes. And that, therefore, causes it to degrade more quickly.

To reach this conclusion, the team of researchers, led by Kejie Zhao, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, created a technique capable of scanning thousands of particles on a battery electrode at the same time. The objective, in this case, is to understand how the cracks generated in these particles can affect the performance of the batteries.

After analyzing these particles, Zhao found that battery components are inevitably damaged through use. All this, moreover, regardless of how the materials are distributed, but that “this heterogeneous degradation is more severe in thicker electrodes and during fast charging conditions.”

Precisely, this degradation in the batteries of electronic devices due to fast charging also affects the battery of electric cars. According to a report by Geotab, a provider of telematics solutions, direct current charging – the kind used in the fastest chargers – ages batteries more than the (lower power) alternating current chargers typically found in homes. “Fast-charging a battery means high currents resulting in high temperatures, both of which are known to strain batteries. In fact, many car manufacturers suggest limiting the use of direct current to extend the battery life of their vehicles.

Is there a way to prevent battery drain?

Luckily, there are ways to at least reduce the impact of battery degradation from fast charging. In fact, many manufacturers are betting on system adjustments to improve the longevity of the batteries. Apple, for example, includes an optimized charging option on its iPhones. This uses machine learning to learn the charging habits of each person. Thus, the device first allows charging up to 80% and charges the remaining 20% before the user starts using it.

It is also recommended, whenever possible, to use chargers with a lower rated power. Or reduce it through software –something that some phones allow you to choose–. This is easily applicable, for example, in night charges. In this scenario, the speed is irrelevant considering that the phone is going to be idle for several hours connected to the current.

On the other hand, manufacturers such as Realme, with its powerful 240W charging system, use their own technologies to reduce the effect of these fast charging systems on the battery. In the case of the Realme GT 3, the brand promises up to 1600 charge cycles before the battery capacity falls below 80%.