Bringing the charging times of electric cars to the same as those for gasoline and diesel vehicles is one of the challenges that world electromobility has not yet managed to win. During the last years, batteries’ technology has made it possible to increase considerably the autonomy of the means. There is already a technology of accumulation alternative to the electrochemical one of the batteries: the supercapacitors or double-layer capacitor. The storage of electricity in an economical and compact way is essential for the electric car and for the costumer. In the United States, the main reason for not buying an electric car is not tied to the autonomy of a model powered by petrol or diesel fuel, nor by the non-capillary presence of charging stations. In the States, potential costumers inclined to consider a battery-powered car as a palatable vehicle are deterred above all by long charging times. A problem that, in the medium term, will be able to attenuate high capacity stations, while waiting for some findings currently under study to make the “full” of energy almost immediate. Current studies are considering the adoption of the supercapacitors in place of the common batteries. Advantages and disadvantages will be discussed and analyzed but the charging speed would be from one thousand to ten thousand times higher than the current one.
During this research project, our consulting firm is in charge to make an engineering assessment as to the source of power for an all-electrical vehicle. The research will be focusing on experiments in which capacitors have been used to replace batteries as power sources for electrical vehicles and looking for a cost-beneficial choice in the use of capacitors rather than batteries. This research will include a cost-benefit analysis by which the costumer has all the information necessary to make s smart choice about the use of capacitors rather than batteries.Several concepts will be reinforced such as power sources and power storage, capacitance, lithium-ion batteries, supercapacitors and relative characteristics.
An electric car is equipped with an electric motor powered by a system of batteries and is managed by a control unit. They are mechanically much simpler, robust and durable compared to those fed with fossil fuels, and do not pollute the atmosphere. In addition, they have higher performance. An electric car is basically composed of three parts: batteries, motor and controller.Batteries are the most expensive component that equips this type of vehicle, although an increase in production would lead to a decrease in construction costs. This research will focus on the best choice of batteries for an all-electric vehicle.The motor that equips electric vehicles is usually of asynchronous three-phase type, therefore, a high-performance engine, powered by batteries and operated by the control unit by a mechanical transmission that transfers the motion to the wheels of the vehicle’s engine. Its main purpose is to convert electricity into kinetic energy. Additionally, there is no clutch or automatic gearbox system. The reverse is achieved by reversing the flow of electricity circulating in the engine: this will reverse the motor’s direction of rotation. Commonly used are lithium-ion batteries since they have higher energy densities than lead-acid batteries or nickel-metal hydride batteries, which allows a smaller packaging size than the other ones. This option has been achieved through the use of NMC (Nickel-Manganese Oxide) cathode material and the use of a laminated cell structure which contributes to the battery capacity and it allows the storage of a high density of lithium-ion. The laminated cell structure contributes to space-saving thanks to its high cooling performance and simple structure.
The supercapacitor is often misunderstood, since it cannot be used to replace the battery to store long-term energy. Super capacitors could be quicker at accumulating and releasing energy, as well as allowing a reduction in vehicle weight thanks to nanotechnology but, unlike lithium-ion batteries, they do not possess a large capacity for storage. According to Nawa Technologies, the ultra-capacitor could be incorporated into lithium accumulators to improve efficiency and increase the autonomy of electric cars. The electric vehicle can invert the operation by acting as a generator, to absorb energy during breaking.
The use of the supercapacitors is precious: it makes possible the rapid absorption of the braking energy and the equally rapid release during acceleration. To correctly size the bench of supercapacitors it is necessary to estimate the duration and the magnitude of the typical breaking and acceleration events. Moreover, the supercapacitors carry the important effect of lengthening the life time of the batteries, as they reduce the frequency of charge and discharge cycles. Using lithium battery packs of reasonable dimensions, it is possible to obtain autonomies in the order of 250 km, but thanks to the supercapacitors the performances can be comparable with those of a vehicle with combustion engine.
Supercapacitors cannot compete with batteries in terms of $/Wh, but they can compete in terms of $/kW and $/unit to satisfy a certain vehicle application. The energy stored in the capacitors is less than 1/10 that in the batteries for hybrid applications, the price of supercapacitors needs to decrease to about .5- 1 cent/Farad for capacitors to be cost competitive with high power batteries at $500-700/kWh. In addition, there is a good possibility that the life of the capacitors would be equal to that of the hybrid vehicles.
During this research, our consulting firm was in charge of an engineering assessment as to the source of power for an all-electrical vehicle. We agreed after considering all the aspects that supercapacitors should be the best option for all-electrical vehicles. Supercapacitors’ high energetic efficiency levels represent the future in the transportation industry and after analyzing the costs of it, a higher initial cost will be faced. However, life cycles are almost infinitely larger compared to ion-lithium ones which require replacement cost every 1000-5000 cycles plus installation. Keeping in mind that there is a good possibility that the life of the capacitors would be equal to that of the electric vehicle. Supercapacitors are the future for this industry.
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