EV Market Watching Showdown Between Batteries, Ultracaps

In a story earlier this month, Gizmodo quoted Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk regarding the future of electric cars. At the Clean Tech Forum in San Francisco earlier this spring, Musk reportedly said electric vehicles (EV) have been held back by the limitations of batteries, but are now moving, “away from battery technology altogether, into the realm of the humble capacitor.”

“The humble capacitor” is of increasing interest to the automotive industry, which has gone through several potential models in its pursuit of more efficient power sources and cost-effective electronic power supply design. At first, automotive manufacturers looked squarely at the lead acid battery to fulfill its EV dreams. However, the size, weight, and cycle life of lead acid batteries drove all-electric vehicles prematurely to the junk yard.

Their next approach was a hybrid one, primarily with nickel metal hydride batteries. Toyota’s Prius recently reached the 1 million sales mark, and with the $4 dollar plus gas prices of today, are now as scarce as they were before Toyota’s well publicized quality issues. With the lithium ion battery based plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt and all electric Nissan Leaf, more and more cars are being electrified to improve performance and fuel economy.

Ultracaps are moving to the front of this trend in transportation electrification in the form of hybrid buses, track-side and on board light rail energy storage systems and now on automobiles. Automakers need to improve the quality and efficiency of cars, SUVs and trucks, and ultracapacitors in the form of start/stop and regenerative braking capture are providing the solution. Ultracapacitors are getting more powerful, energetic and economical, and the momentum from micro to mild to hybrid to all electric vehicles is building rapidly. As Writer Nick Broughall says in his Gizmodo piece, “Obviously this would be hugely beneficial to the electric vehicle industry. A supercapacitor that can deliver enough power to a vehicle to allow it to travel large distances that doesn’t need to worry about degrading battery performance would be the Holy Grail of EV power.” Also, imagine an EV that can charge as fast as you can pump gas, but without the gas pump sticker shock of today.

Maybe “holy grail” is an apt metaphor; ultracapacitors are the subject of the automotive industry’s great quest for superior hybrid and fully electric vehicles. The difference between these components and the grail, of course, is that the ultracap has already been found. Or rather, it has been created.

When we reach the point that ultracapacitors can beat batteries on energy density, it will revolutionize the EV market. As the Gizmodo article states, “…it’s good to know that even though we’re currently stuck with lithium-based batteries as a power source, there’s a pretty impressive solution not too far away.”

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  • uSTART® Lead-Free Replacement for Truck Batteries

    ONEONTA, N.Y.Jan. 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Ioxus uSTART® has received two fleet industry awards for sustainability by eliminating lead-acid batteries with its ultracapacitor-based, drop-in battery replacement.

    "With uSTART, fleets not only realize the benefits of improved starting reliability, there are equally important and real sustainability improvements from lead waste reduction," said Chad Hall, executive vice president and co-founder of Ioxus. "By replacing one of the batteries on a vehicle with a uSTART module, up to 15 fewer batteries are needed over the lifetime of the vehicle. This translates into 1,000 pounds of lead that will never need to be disposed of or allowed to affect groundwater."

    EU legislation on batteries is embodied in the European Battery Directive.  Its objective is to contribute to the preservation and improvement of environmental quality by minimizing the negative impact of batteries and battery waste.  As these preservation efforts expand, sustainable technologies develop to manage and mitigate these risks.

    Replacing a lead-acid battery with uSTART in a typical commercial vehicle creates measurable environmental benefits:

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