Ultracaps 101: Selecting the right solution

So, let’s go back to basics.

You’re looking at energy storage solutions, and you need to brush up on your technology options. It’s time to study the ultracap.

What is an ultracapacitor?
Ultracapacitors, like all capacitors, have a high power density. What differentiates ultracapacitors from their traditional counterparts, electrolytic capacitors, is their high energy density, allowing them to store a vast amount of energy in a small package.

Why do engineers choose ultracapacitors?
The capacitors with which most design engineers are familiar have short time constants, which means their voltage cycles quickly. By contrast, ultracapacitor arrays have time constants of the order of tens of seconds to minutes. The large capacitance and extremely low frequency time constants allow ultracapacitors to be used in applications that have not been practical or economical for other types of capacitors.

While ultracapacitors store a large amount of charge, they are still well below the energy density of storage batteries. There are not many situations in which an ultracapacitor solution can replace a battery outright; however, since ultracapacitors have a much lower internal resistance and much faster charge rate than batteries, they can make a battery-powered system run far more efficiently.

Who does the ultracap benefit?
Here’s a common example of how ultracaps boost battery performance and benefit applications. If you pair an ultracapacitor with the starter battery for an internal combustion engine (ICE), for instance, you solve one of the most persistent problems faced by the green automotive industry.

Starter batteries are typically sized for starting ICEs in 0°F conditions, but drivers in much of the U.S. and the world must crank their cars on far colder mornings for at least part of the year. An ultracapacitor can work down to -40°F with little increase in its internal resistance, making the combination of battery and ultracapacitor a robust power source even at low temperatures.

Let’s Review
In general, the use of an ultracapacitor in combination with a battery is an excellent way to increase the overall power density of the power source and decrease the strain on the battery. Where energy storage with high-peak power is required, it is likely an ultracapacitor device will be useful.

Latest News

  • 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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