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Supercapacitors are slowly emerging as novel tech for electric vehicles

A couple years ago Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in an offhand remark that he thought capacitors — rather than batteries — might be the energy storage tech to deliver an important breakthrough for electric transportation.

According to an article in the Economist this weekend, super and ultracapacitors are already starting to be used in a variety of novel ways in electric vehicles, including in racecars and also in some buses, trams and trains. Ultracapacitors are often used to aid batteries in hybrid and electric cars, something we’ve covered over the years. Read full story

CSR unveils 100% supercapacitor-powered tram

CSR Zhuzhou, China, has unveiled what it claims is the world's first 100% supercapacitor-powered low-floor tram.

The LRVs will automatically recharge an onboard bank of supercapacitors during stops at stations and CSR says the vehicles will draw sufficient power during a 30-second stop to operate independently for up to 4km. The supercapacitor provides power to the traction system for acceleration and also draws current from the regenerative braking system, which can recover up to 85% of braking energy for reuse. 


First ultracap-only electric-bus on the streets of Sofia

Europe’s latest electric bus is the Chariot e-bus which takes to the road in Sofia, Bulgaria this week. The vehicle, which can travel up to 20km on a single charge, is the result of a collaboration between Israeli-Bulgarian bus company Chariot Motors, China’s second largest bus manufacturer Higer and China-based ultra-capacitor producer Aowei.

The ultra-capacitor technology is used to capture energy from braking for powering the bus. The technology has been tested in Shanghai for more than seven years, clocking up more than 8 million kilometres, but has never before been launched in Europe. The bus has an average daily energy consumption has already been test-proven in Sofia to be about 0.95kWh/km.

Chariot e-bus

According to Zwika Zimmerman, chairman of the board of Chariot Motors, electric buses are the future of urban public transport.

“This is the first electric bus on European streets that does not require traditional battery charging and can cover its whole route on a single charge requiring just a few minutes. However I’m confident that it won’t be the last,” said Zimmerman. “Cities across Europe face increased demand for public transportation at the same time as facing increased concerns over air pollution. Electric buses can both meet that demand and address those concerns,” added Zimmerman.

Last year, the European Environment Agency revealed that Bulgaria has the highest concentration in its air of sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide in Europe.

 Chariot e-bus on the street of Sofia