Ami Cholia

Tesla Chief Bets on Capacitors Over Batteries for Future of Electric Vehicles

by , 03/24/11

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While Tesla has been on the forefront of electric vehicle battery technology, company chief Elon Musk recently said that capacitors, not batteries, are the future of EV’s. Musk told a Cleantech Forum in San Francisco that “If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that it is not batteries. But capacitors.”

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Capacitors, like batteries, store energy to be used at a later time. But unlike your standard battery, they deliver quick, intense bursts of energy. As a result, capacitors, or ultracapacitors, can withstand significantly more charge and discharge cycles than batteries and can deliver more power at a time. Capacitors can even be used with batteries.

Considering Musk has built an entire business on batteries, it is definitely worth noting that he thinks capacitors will be the future. According to Gigaom, Musk originally went to California to do research on capacitors at Stanford for advanced ship making and now seems to want to revisit the technology. While a few companies around the world are working on capacitors for electric cars, we clearly have a long way to go before the technology goes mainstream.

Via Gigaom

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4 Comments

  1. mcamello March 31, 2014 at 2:47 am

    How about installing 2 batteries/capacitors to an electric vehicle together with a dynamo that is connected to the wheel of the car to produce the electric current needed to recharge the idle battery/capacitor while the car is being driven. When the “serving” battery/capacitor runs low of power, just switch on the dynamo to the recharged the worn out battery. By alternating the usage and recharging of the battery, there will be no need to recharge either battery/capacitor at a service station.

  2. lazyreader March 25, 2011 at 8:08 am

    Good, I hope the technology works out. But here’s a helpful tidbit. Use your own money to develop it.

    http://www.dailyfinance.com/story/tesla-motors-gets-a-465-million-taxpayer-loan-why/19162090/

  3. smokey_the_bear March 25, 2011 at 12:07 am

    If capacitors can become good enough, we could probably actually “harvest” lightning, that would be pretty cool.

  4. WBrooke March 24, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    Both are good technologies, and should be used together to leverage the strengths of each.

    The capacitors can charge and discharge really quickly. This is great for recovering the energy from braking, and for handling acceleration from a stop. But capacitors cannot store nearly as many kilowatt-hours as chemical batteries. So capacitors are great for power, but they are bad for energy storage.

    Chemical batteries are pretty good at storing energy, but you have to charge and discharge them slowly to avoid damage. Batteries are bad at absorbing the quick power surge of regenerative braking, and the quick power draw of acceleration. However, batteries are great for delivering power when you are at cruising speed.

    I think with capacitors for handling acceleration and regenerative braking, and batteries for handling everything else, the range of electric cars could be greatly extended.

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