Ultracapacitors Replace Batteries in Toyota Supra HV-R Hybrid

The Strategy Analytics Automotive Electronics service report, “Will Ultracapacitors Replace Batteries?” analyzes ultracapacitor potential, especially following the recent the Toyota Supra HV-R victory in the Tokachi 24-hour endurance race. The HV-R was equipped with ultracapacitors, instead of rechargeable batteries, for power storage—their fast charging and discharging ability resulted in a first-ever hybrid car victory. The car was able to store large quantities of energy quickly from regenerative braking and apply this stored power quickly to its advantage. BMW has also demonstrated this ability in its “syncap” concept whereby two-thirds of vehicle total torque was generated by the syncaps enabling heavy SUVs to accelerate more quickly than before, with improved fuel economy.

Batteries store electrical energy in chemical form, whereas capacitors utilize a pair of closely-spaced conductors to store energy in an electric field. Capacitors are much lighter than batteries, and do not require the use of toxic materials and are much lighter. Furthermore, ultracapacitors have a superior charging/discharging cycle lifetime compared to rechargeable batteries. Advanced materials such as carbon nanotubes are being investigated to further extend ultracapacitor abilities.

The author of the Insight, Kevin Mak, Industry Analyst of the Automotive Electronics Service, comments, “Impending emissions legislation will force car makers to look at energy saving technologies. Developments are apace to use ultracapacitors in “stop-start” and regenerative braking systems in order to further reduce automobile fuel consumption and emissions and to power additional electrical functions. Full hybrid powertrains are also likely to use ultracapacitors alongside batteries, bringing a more balanced solution.”

“Effective energy storage and recovery from ultracapacitors for vehicle electrical systems requires dynamic processor control and power converters, thus creating new opportunities for electronic module and semiconductor vendors,” added Chris Webber, VP, Global Automotive Practice.

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