We’ll soon start to see a hybrid energy-storage solution of batteries and ultracapacitors to address multiple applications simultaneously, like e-turbo, active suspension, regeneration, power steering, electric brake boosters and more.
Ultracapacitors on the Road
Jens Keiser | Maxwell Technologies, Inc.
What automotive market trends are driving the adoption of ultracapacitor technology?
As a result of changing emission standards, we’re seeing an increase in electrification of mechanical subsystems. There’s also a lot of innovation in the industry, like autonomous driving, that’s pushing the adoption of ultracapacitor technology.
How many cars are already on the road with ultracapacitors and what is the feedback from OEMs so far?
There are more than 1.5 million cars on the road today that use Maxwell Technologies ultracapacitors. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have reported that they are solid, extremely durable and move things along smoothly. Unlike other news surrounding the automotive industry today, there haven’t been any problems or recalls, which is a testament to Maxwell’s dedication to providing only the highest quality ultracaps to its customers.
What are the differentiators between the different energy storage technologies (lead-acid, lithium-ion and ultracapacitors) and can they be used in tandem?
Lithium-ion is high in energy density and typically used in 48V and high-voltage architectures like battery electric vehicles (BEVs), plug-in and hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs and HEVs). In comparison, lead-acid energy storage, which has been around forever, is much cheaper and primarily a solution for smaller, 12V architectures. Lead acid is typically very heavy and has limited power capabilities compared to other options. Ultracapacitors are a bit of their own breed. They’re the best solution for power applications, with a long life and the ability to work in a wide range of temperatures. They are limited in energy density, but several Tier 1s and OEMs are currently researching how they can work with lithium-ion and lead-acid batteries to address the future of automotive architectures.
What specific application does an ultracapacitor best suit in the operation of an electric vehicle?
At the moment, ultracapacitors don’t have any application in electric vehicles because EVs need something with higher energy density. A combination of ultracapacitors and lithium-ion batteries could potentially extend battery life; however, we are not aware of any current projects in BEVs.
Aside from start-stop, what other future applications can use ultracapacitors in vehicle electrification?
Ultracapacitors are primarily used in active suspension systems, electric turbo chargers and boosting/acceleration systems. However, we’ll also start to see a hybrid energy-storage solution of batteries and ultracapacitors to address multiple applications simultaneously, like e-turbo, active suspension, regeneration, power steering, electric brake boosters and more.
What do you see as the main factor causing automakers to use ultracapacitor-based technology for start-stop and other applications?
The biggest factor is the increase in electrification within 12V and 48V architectures to address new features. We heard from a lot of OEMs who said the existing 12V boardnet was at its limit and needed something more powerful to drive new applications like start-stop.
Are there other applications in the transportation industry?
Ultracapacitors can be, and should be, used across the transportation industry, not just personal automobiles. Hybrid-diesel buses, truck fleets and rail companies have already installed ultracaps or are currently evaluating them. While there is some overlap, they’re all using them for a number of different reasons. Rail companies, like CAF Power & Automation, are using ultracapacitors for onboard and wayside energy, while trucks find them to be most helpful for engine starting in extreme temperatures. Hybrid-diesel buses are also using them for regenerative energy. Ultracapacitors have a number of different uses, and we’re constantly learning of new applications within each separate industry.
About Maxwell Technologies, Inc.
Maxwell is a global leader in the development and manufacture of innovative, cost-effective energy storage and power delivery solutions. Our ultracapacitor cells, multi-cell packs and modules provide safe and reliable power solutions for applications in consumer and industrial electronics, renewable energy, transportation and telecommunications.
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