PORTLAND, Ore. -- A new type of electric power storage unit that combines the best of supercapacitors and lithium ion batteries, combined with thermoelectric charging from heat of engines, could be the ideal power source for future vehicles -- from cars to industrial trucks to military convoys, according to Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx Ltd. in Cambridge, United Kingdom.
"Supercabatteries have battery and supercapacitor properties, usually intermediate between the two. While there are lead-acid- and nickel-battery-based versions, the main attention is on ones with a lithium-ion battery electrode and a supercapacitor electrode," Harrop told EE Times. "These asymmetric electrochemical double layer capacitors (EDLC) are otherwise known as lithium-ion capacitors. They are a promising option for replacing lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors in automotive applications because they have faster charge and discharge and some other superior properties."
A supercabattery combines one electrode of a batteries with the other from a supercapacitor, also called 'hybrid capacitors' the double layer is the best of both worlds.
Superabatteries are gaining traction at future-looking automobile makers world wide, according to Harrop, including BMW, Ford, Komatsu and AIST-The Japanese Government Research Center.
Thermoelectrics, which recover energy that would otherwise be lost to heat generation, will also become commonplace in the cars, trucks and convoys of the future, according to Harrop, as well as in many other applications.
Thermoelectric materials can recover heat energy from the exhaust and motors to recharge the supercabatteries.
"Thermoelectric devices will be a separate market over 1 billion dollars in 2025 including automotive," Harrop told us.
Until now there have been very few themoelectric sucess successs stories except for novelty items. EnOcean Alliance, for instance, uses thermoelectric devices attached to radiators to generate tiny UHF pulses to operate wireless building controls and Schneider Electric uses them to power wireless sensors that trigger responses to heat overloads on copper busbars.
But so far thermoelectrics have been a failure in cars -- for instance, after 20 years of research BMW was only able to achieve about one tenth of the theoretical maximum -- about 3 percent, according to Harrop. But in 2014 the Japanese maker of giant construction vehicles, Komatsu KELK, was able to prove that 1.5KW could be recovered with thermoelectric innovations that doubled their efficiency to 7.5 percent. IDTechExj predicts that thermoelectric energy harvesting will become commonplace on commercial busses and hybrid cars by 2018. The largest vehicles will take advantage of the technology first, because they generate enough heat to make thermoelectrics useful.
But by 2020 supercabatteries will become commonplace on nearly all hybrid electric vehicles, according to IDTechEx, with the thermoelectric energy harvesters extending their range, thereby enabling smaller supercabatteries to be used. For instance, the U.S. Military predicts a 70 percent reduction in fuel consumption as a result by 2020. And by 2025 IDTechEx predicts 9 million hybrid electric cars will use thermoelectrics and by 2030 hybrids will continue to outsell pure electric vehicles simply because they do not produce enough heat to take advantage of the advanced thermoelectric materials available by then.
Conventional gas powered cars, which will still be outselling hybrids and pure electrics in 2030, will also be taking advantage of thermoelectrics to power the heater, ventilation motors and other electric-powered accessories in even convention gas guzzlers.
(Video, above) Summary of electric vehicles of the future as chairman of IDTechEx Peter Harrop. (Source: IDTechEx)
— R. Colin Johnson, Advanced Technology Editor, EE Times