It should come as no surprise that the future of supercapacitors is bright. Supercapacitors, which store higher amounts of charge than traditional electrolytic capacitors and provide higher energy densities than batteries, have been touted for use in applications such as regenerative braking systems in vehicles as well as other industrial applications.
In recent weeks, vehicle manufacturers are showing they are serious about supercapacitors. In March, electric vehicle maker Tesla announced its intent to acquire supercapacitor manufacturer Maxwell Technologies. Based in San Diego, Maxwell has teamed with other companies in the automotive business. For instance, Continental is deploying Maxwell’s ultracapacitors for the voltage stabilization system supporting start-stop in Lamborghini and PSA Peugeot Citroen models.
While Tesla did not disclose the exact reasons for wanting to acquire Maxwell, one can guess that the automaker hopes to leverage the company’s supercapacitor technology as a power source for its vehicles. The supercapacitors could provide the much-needed peak power boosts needed to propel Tesla’s vehicles.
Tesla is not alone. Exotic car manufacture Lamborghini announced it is using supercapacitors instead of batteries to help power its coming LB48H supercar, the successor to the company’s Aventador. The supercapacitor would eliminate the need for a bulky battery occupying the vehicle’s engine compartment, allowing a reduction in the vehicle’s size and weight. One can well imagine the supercapacitors providing high peak power boosts to help the vehicle achieve high levels of torque, and thus very fast speeds.
A report by IDTechEx titled “Energy Storage for Electric Buses and Trucks 2019-2029,” confirms the automotive industry embracing supercapacitors. The firm expects that advances in supercapacitors will enable them to achieve higher energy densities, enabling them to steal some market share from traditional lithium-ion batteries for energy storage in trucks and buses.
Before supercapacitors find greater use in vehicles, improvements will be needed in areas such as materials, as they need to withstand high voltages and temperatures.
A research team led by Tohoku University in Japan has developed a graphene-based material for supercapacitors that reportedly exhibits higher voltage and better stability than other materials. The new material is a sheet made from a continuous three-dimensional framework of graphene mesosponge, a carbon-based material containing nanoscale pores.
According to the researchers, a key feature of the materials is that it is seamless. The material contains a very small number of carbon edges, the sites where corrosion reactions originate, and this makes it extremely stable.