Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with high energy density that can be safely charged and discharged at high rates are desirable for electrified transportation and other applications. However, the sub-optimal intercalation potentials of current anodes result in a trade-off between energy density, power and safety. Here we report that disordered rock salt Li3+xV2O5 can be used as a fast-charging anode that can reversibly cycle two lithium ions at an average voltage of about 0.6 volts versus a Li/Li+ reference electrode. The increased potential compared to graphite reduces the likelihood of lithium metal plating if proper charging controls are used, alleviating a major safety concern (short-circuiting related to Li dendrite growth). In addition, a lithium-ion battery with a disordered rock salt Li3V2O5 anode yields a cell voltage much higher than does a battery using a commercial fast-charging lithium titanate anode or other intercalation anode candidates (Li3VO4 and LiV0.5Ti0.5S2). Further, disordered rock salt Li3V2O5 can perform over 1,000 charge–discharge cycles with negligible capacity decay and exhibits exceptional rate capability, delivering over 40 per cent of its capacity in 20 seconds. We attribute the low voltage and high rate capability of disordered rock salt Li3V2O5 to a redistributive lithium intercalation mechanism with low energy barriers revealed via ab initio calculations. This low-potential, high-rate intercalation reaction can be used to identify other metal oxide anodes for fast-charging, long-life lithium-ion batteries.