The potential of supercapacitors in electric vehicles
Date of Issue2017
School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences
The global outlook for electric vehicles in extremely positive, with the total, worldwide fleet of electric vehicles expected to hit 100 million by 2035, up from 1.2 million in 2015. As far as energy storage systems for electric vehicles go, the most dominant type of technology is the Lithium-Ion battery. The Lithium-Ion battery converts electrical energy into stored chemical energy during charge and reverses the process to deliver a current during discharge. Characteristics such as a relatively high energy density, low relative unit cost, and higher life cycle as compared to other batteries have given the Lithium-Ion battery strong reason to dominate other energy storage technologies within the electric vehicle market. However, the Lithium-Ion battery does come with its own flaws. The range of electric vehicles is still limited by the battery’s size – which has seemingly reached its peak. Issues of safety and the battery’s sensitivity to operating conditions also plague consumer mindsets. Thus, the search for other, better forms of energy storage technologies continues. A prime candidate to replace the Lithium-Ion battery is the supercapacitor, which stores and releases electrical energy through non-faradaic processes, unlike the Lithium-Ion battery. However, the supercapacitor has a higher cost than Lithium-Ion batteries, and a much lower energy density – meaning that vehicles running purely on supercapacitors don’t travel as much as those powered by Lithium-Ion batteries before requiring a recharge. Fortunately, improvements in supercapacitors are closing the gap between the two technologies, and the supercapacitor is expected to overtake the Lithium-Ion battery as the predominant energy storage solution in the future of electric vehicles.
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