Published on May 26th, 2014 | by James Ayre


Faster Acceleration In EVs With New Supercapacitor Improvement? New Research From UC Riverside Tantalizes

May 26th, 2014 by  

Could electric vehicles (EVs) soon get a big boost to their acceleration thanks to new, improved supercapacitors?

The researchers behind an interesting new development in the field think so — thanks to the development of a novel nanometer scale ruthenium oxide anchored nanocarbon graphene foam architecture that improves the performance of said supercapacitors.

(a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Image Credit: University of California - Riverside

(a) Schematic illustration of the preparation process of RGM nanostructure foam. SEM images of (b–c) as-grown GM foam (d) Lightly loaded RGM, and (e) heavily loaded RGM. Image Credit: University of California–Riverside

The new development could also be used to create batteries with greater capacity than is currently possible, according to the researchers. Something important to note — the “foam electrode was successfully cycled over 8,000 times with no fading in performance.”

Of course, whether or not EVs will get a boost to their acceleration (or better batteries will be created) is the real question, not if they could. And that’s typically a matter of economics, something not often addressed in university press releases.

On that front, though, the research (and related work) is currently in the process of being commercialized by a team at UC Riverside, which is a good sign that is not often present in such releases.

The press release provides more:

The researchers found that supercapacitors, an energy storage device like batteries and fuel cells, based on transition metal oxide modified nanocarbon graphene foam electrode could work safely in aqueous electrolyte and deliver two times more energy and power compared to supercapacitors commercially available today.

These characteristics are desirable for many applications including electric vehicles and portable electronics. However, supercapacitors may only serve as standalone power sources in systems that require power delivery for less than 10 seconds because of their relatively low specific energy.

High capacitance, or the ability to store an electrical charge, is critical to achieve higher energy density. Meanwhile, to achieve a higher power density it is critical to have a large electrochemically accessible surface area, high electrical conductivity, short ion diffusion pathways and excellent interfacial integrity. Nanostructured active materials provide a mean to these ends.

“Besides high energy and power density, the designed graphene foam electrode system also demonstrates a facile and scalable binder-free technique for preparing high energy supercapacitor electrodes,” stated researcher Wei Wang. “These promising properties mean that this design could be ideal for future energy storage applications.”

The new research was detailed in a paper published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

On a related front, a new graphene and carbon-nanotube supercapacitor that rivals lithium-ion batteries in storage capacity was recently created by an international research team. The new supercapacitor also possesses an impressive lifespan, much greater than that of lithium batteries — 93% after 10,000 charge/discharge cycles. So — essentially — this is an energy storage device that can charge/discharge as fast as a supercapacitor but has the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery? Sounds good… I assume there’s a catch somewhere, though, right? one issue is that graphene, though supposedly now in commercial production in Poland, is a new and hard-to-produce material that is likely very costly.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.

  • Maria Marry

    No no I am not agree with that because of

  • Vensonata

    I have this theory. The problem with fast charging lithium is that bulk can be use to about 90% then slow tapering is required. Why not have a super capacitor which stores the last 10% and which can finish the taper charge to the lithium. Apparently batteries prefer 100% full charges for longevity. Capacitors have almost unlimited cycle life and can accept rapid charging…but they are expensive. They are used to capture regenerative brake energy. I am even thinking of this technique for off grid lead acid batteries. Engineers please critique my theory.

    • eject

      Lithium batteries prefer to be about half full. That is why the standard charging setting on a Model S only fills them to 80% which is recommended for normal use. Only if you set the car into range mode it will charge the battery fully.
      Other manufacturers such as BMW don’t allow you to use the last 20% at all, you don’t even know that 100% isn’t actually 100% but 80%.
      There is no advantage from going to 100% beside range, the batteries don’t like it.

      • Ven sonata

        Thanks for that, I was presuming that lithium was like lead acid, which unless fully charged each time begins to shrink in capacity. Lithium is different apparently.

      • nakedChimp

        Is there any easy source for this, a link maybe? Please.
        Also, what about LiFePO4, does it have similar characteristics in regards to being full/half full over lengths of time? (*)

        *) I ask, because I’m in the process to get some for a home system (50V 100Ah = 5kWh) and as it’s rather expensive I’d like to know if there are any treatment hints to them.
        The manufacturer doesn’t list something like this, so I’d really like to know.

        • Benjamin Nead

          All lithium batteries like to run at a maximum of around 80% to a minimum of around 30% full charge, nakedChimp (these aren’t necessarily exact figures, but basic benchmarks.) LiFePO4 is no exception.

          Charging voltages, maximum cell operation voltages and safe minimum voltages for LiFePO4 are going to be slightly lower than most other lithium formulas. Make sure the charging electronics you are using is designed for the specific battery chemistry in question. If unsure, call or email manufacturers or vendors of all involved equipment.

          Most well designed battery management systems – regardless of the specific chemistry they’re designed to work with – will regulated these parameters, making sure the correct voltage/amperage is being distributed to each cell in multi-cell packs.

          To address VenSonata’s question – lithiums (like lead acid) like to be charged at constant current & constant voltage (CC/CV,) but (unlike lead acid,) it’s recommended to disengage the charger as soon as the cells are topped off (ie: don’t trickle charge,) or employ a charger that has an automatic cutoff feature.

          More here . . .

          • nakedChimp

            Thanks for the links Ben. Much appreciated.

  • Ronald Brakels

    Well, existing capacitors are enough to give electric car engines a boost if they need it. The Nissan Leaf has a big black one that’s about the length of your forearm and quite thick, but I’m not exactly sure how it uses it. Presumably the Tesla has something similar. So while the acceleration of electric cars isn’t left lacking for want of adequate supercapacitors, improved ones would be welcome, particularly if they were a cost effective substitute for batteries.

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