The Future of Ultracapacitors Begins With Lower ESR

It’s exciting enough to watch the present use of ultracapacitors unfold. In markets ranging from wind power to transportation to LED lighting, designers and manufacturers are adopting ultracaps to replace or enhance batteries, making products more efficient, easier to maintain and longer lasting. But the future will bring even greater advances. Given the innovation and research occurring in the industry today, we can predict the near-term availability of ultracapacitors with decreased ESR of 10 percent or more. When that comes to pass, a number of applications will be able to better take advantage of the ultracapacitors.

ESR, or equivalent series resistance, measures resistance within the capacitor. As the ESR rating goes up, it indicates greater loss of efficiency. Stemming that loss by even 10 percent would boost the power capabilities by a parallel amount. That power boost would translate into higher performance. For example:

  • Light rail applications require a significant number of ultracapacitors to provide the power and energy required to propel up to speed and across distances as long as 500 meters. The number of cycles can be up to 350K per year. These systems require cooling due to the heat generated from the system and cell resistance. By lowering the cell resistance by 10 percent, they can reduce their cooling requirements by 10 percent, making the system smaller, lighter and more efficient.
  • Similar to the train application listed above, ESR plays a large role in the efficiency and cooling requirements used in hybrid bus applications. The lower the ESR, the more efficient the bus can recapture energy during braking, or use the energy captured during acceleration with less cooling requirements.
  • Micro hybrids, using stop/start technologies, require low resistance, highly efficient ultracapacitors to perform a very high number of cycles. The lower the resistance, the more energy that can be delivered during the vehicle start. Low ESR, high power ultracapacitors allow auto makers to increase fleet fuel performance by providing a reliable technology that will last for the required start/stop requirements, over a long period.

For now, ESR remains too high for manufacturers in railway, hybrid bus and electric vehicles. These markets are eager for cells that free them from the burden of excess cooling requirements and suppressed cycle life. Their demands for lower ESR will be met in the near term, and Ioxus looks forward to leading those efforts.

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