Ultracapacitor, the time saving device of the future
One of the major hurdles currently facing the electric car industry is the limitations created by charging batteries. With the range of batteries only growing it seems to be the only real remaining issue that a would-be consumer may feel the need to query.
A group of researchers think they have found the solution to that issue, which would take charging down from hours to minutes. The discovery of a new material that could boost the performance of a carbon-based supercapacitor (sometimes called an ultracapacitor), which are a type of energy storage device that can both disperse energy and recharge energy very quickly is showing real promise.
Supercapacitors don't produce electricity through chemical reactions as conventional batteries do, they create electrostatic fields. They already have many day-to-day applications such as providing quick bursts of power to start a car engine, or to give trains a boost when accelerating. National electricity grids also use them to provide quick power top-ups when balancing supply and demand.
"The two main advantages of conventional supercapacitors over batteries are their ability to handle much higher charge and discharge rates, and their longer cycle life," says Gareth Hinds, Fellow of the UK's National Physical Laboratory.
"The downside is that they tend to be relatively high cost and can only store a few seconds, or at most, minutes-worth of energy."
"Polymer-based supercapacitors are emerging as a promising technology," concludes Gareth Hinds, "but there is a lot of work still to do to achieve the required energy storage capacity without compromising on power, lifetime and cost."
Supercapacitors do seem to offer a good alternative to batteries, despite research and development into batteries yielding annual performance improvements of around 10%. With significantly less material demands they could soon deliver an even greener future.