Currently reading: EVs could be fully charged 'in seconds' following supercapacitor revolution
The EV battery charging capabilities will be dwarfed when supercapacitors are adopted, says a university-affiliated research group
Jimi Beckwith
3 mins read
6 December 2016

Supercapacitors will replace batteries in electric vehicles, allowing them to be charged in a matter of seconds, according to a research group working with the University of Surrey and University of Bristol.

The group claims to have reached a breakthrough in its research into EV batteries and says supercapacitors are proven to be between 1000 and 10,000 times more powerful than equivalent batteries.

Read about the Tesla Model S P100D here

This breakthrough could finally allow battery-electric vehicles to have ranges as long as those of fossil-fuelled cars, along with similar refuelling times. The group also described supercapacitors as being more efficient and greener, suggesting that they may waste less energy and have a smaller environmental impact than regular electric vehicle powertrains.

The research into new materials was the cause of the breakthrough, and despite a lower current projected energy density than the traditional lithium-ion batteries used in EVs - meaning a lower storage capacity per kilogram, until the energy density of the tech increases - the considerably quicker charge time of the research group's supercapacitor system means that "A lot of people would be more happy with a half the range of a 300-mile, lithium ion-batteried EV, but a fast charging time", said chief executive of Augmented Optics Ltd and Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, Jim Heathcote.

These conclusions were made by the two universities in co-operation with  Augmented Optics, a company that owns Supercapacitor Materials Ltd, with the group adding that supercapacitors will “revolutionise the capabilities of appliances that have previously relied on battery power to work". Laptops, mobile phones and tablet computers are all targeted by the group as areas for potential change.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has already backed supercapacitors but said “we need a breakthrough in energy density” on his social media accounts. The research group suggests that this may be the breakthrough Musk was referring to. China already has a fleet of supercapacitor-equipped buses, although these do not yet have the considerable range the research group claims is possible with the further development.

Dr Brendan Howlin of the University of Surrey said: “There is a global search for new energy storage technology and this new ultra-capacity supercapacitor has the potential to open the door to unimaginably exciting developments.”

Heathcote also said:We are now actively seeking commercial partners in order to supply our polymers and offer assistance to build these ultra-high-energy density storage devices.” The company also cites Musk's vested interest in the technology, suggesting they will be expecting to make contact with Tesla about the proposition.


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Heathcote explained that the group has been working in secret on the project until this point, having filed worldwide patents only last week.

The group hopes to have a working prototype in action by spring 2017. Production costs, according to Heathcote, are unlikely to be a barrier to entry for the technology, due to the lack of rare elements used in production and the supercapacitors’ resistance to fade even with repeated charging.

Join the debate


6 December 2016
When I have an autonomous Tesla with supercapacitors and equipped with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious mode in which the 0-60 time is limited only by the amount of G-force I can take, I think I will look back fondly on my days as a 2CV driver. As I have said before, there's a reason you buy a piano as opposed to a pianola.

6 December 2016
Does such a thing exist or is this just a plea for further investment? In the history of battery development, most improvements have been incremental rather than revolutionary and it seems unlikely that a revolution is possible.

6 December 2016
How quickly will JLR be on the phone if this proposition hangs together? Perfect timing to coincide with the launch of the I-Pace. Could give them market dominance for a few months at least :-)

6 December 2016
Is this that graphene thing where they charged a graphene sheet for 3 seconds but got it to light an LED for 5 mins and then made into a capacitor? Does it scale industrially? Usually this hurdle kills off a lot of lab inventions and the technology remains a curiosity that gets used in very specific scenarios like satellites where the costs can be justified.

6 December 2016
High density capacitors have been used as alternative to batteries for a long time, in such things as electronic and PC boards as a backup supply to keep the clock or settings memory running during power off, ideal in situations where replacement is difficult as it should have no life expectancy limits. In practice thermal wear and tear does limit life. Its the main reason domestic LED bulbs don't last forever, the LED is still going strong but the capacitors used in the power converter cook and fail over time. Same with modern switch mode power supplies, their life depends on the quality of the capacitors used. To make capacitors for cars will require cells made using hundreds of miles of microscopically thin, compactly and perfectly wound materials. Charging could be interesting, if you have ever seen even a small capacitor blow, could be quite exciting when a big high density one blows on a 200 amp super charger. Think hand grenade.

6 December 2016
If it all works out, it'll be a game-changer. Not only will it do away with the whole petrol-based infrastructure, but companies like Tesla don't have to be tied down by billion-dollar investments in mega-factories for the production of batteries.

6 December 2016
EVs could be fully charged in seconds following super capacitor revolution.
The only word of any importance in the preceding sentence is "could".
There could be fairies at the bottom of my garden and there could be a man in a red suit and beard coming down my chimney within three weeks, aliens could abduct me at any time and Autocar could concentrate its efforts on things that are happening not speculation , but also pigs could fly.

6 December 2016
Everyday one hears of new 'breakthroughs'. But only when they're actually applied - let's start with baby steps and the cellphone - will I raise my hat.

Until then it's little more than sensationalism.

6 December 2016
Even assuming cheap reliable super capacitors exist that doesn't solve the charging problem.
Let's take a hypothetical 200kwH supercapicitor- double the power storage of a Tesla P100D. At 50A it will take 4 hrs to charge. To charge fully in 5 mins (not seconds) will require either massive amperage way beyond anything in the current residential or even light industrial infrastructure, or much higher voltages or both.
The advantage of petrol is its high energy density per litre and the ease at which tens of litres can be transferred.

6 December 2016
reckless fox wrote:

The advantage of petrol is its high energy density per litre and the ease at which tens of litres can be transferred.

It's doesn't look that easy to me when you look at it from well to tank. It looks simple because of the centuries of infrastructure investment. Simple to me is drive home plug in charge repeat. Even simpler "Echo Uber car work 5 minutes".


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