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Elon Musk's Interest in Supercapacitors

tonybelding

Active Member
Aug 17, 2006
1,474
788
Hamilton, Texas
Money.cnn.com had an article where they surveyed a bunch of entrepreneurs and asked them what kind of startup companies they would be interested in investing in. One of those they asked was Elon Musk. Here's what they got. . .

The New Power Play

The Investor: Elon Musk, co-founder, PayPal

What he's backed: SpaceX, Tesla Motors

What he wants now: As Musk's two most recent investments - in a space rocket and an all-electric sports car - suggest, the 35-year-old entrepreneur likes to think big. So he's intrigued by the promise of a next-generation battery called an ultracapacitor, capable of powering everything from cars to tractors. Unlike chemical batteries, ultracapacitors store energy as an electrical field between a pair of conducting plates. Theoretically, they can be charged in less than a second rather than hours, be recharged repeatedly without sacrificing performance, and far outlast anything now on the market.

"I am convinced that the long-term solution to our energy needs lies with capacitors," Musk says. "You can't beat them for power, and they kick ass on any chemical battery."

Musk would know: He was doing Ph.D. work at Stanford on high-energy capacitors before he helped get PayPal off the ground. At least one startup, EEStor in Texas, and a larger company, Maxwell Technologies in California, are working on ultracapacitors. Yet Musk believes a university-based research group has an equal shot at a commercial breakthrough, since universities are where the most promising research is bubbling up. "The challenge is one of materials science, not money," Musk says.

The team to pull this off, he says, would need expertise in materials science, applied physics, and manufacturing. Musk wants to see a prototype that can power something small, like a boom box. "Make one and show me that it works," Musk says. "Then tell me what's wrong with it and how it can be fixed."

What he'll invest: $4 million over two years for a working prototype

Send your pitch to: [email protected]. -- M.V.C.

Elon isn't the only one interested in storage technology. Next they asked the people at Kholsa Ventures. . .

A Better Energizer

The Investors: Samir Kaul and Vinod Khosla, partners, Khosla Ventures

What they've backed: BCI, Codon Devices, iSkoot

What they want now: Khosla, a legendary Silicon Valley VC whose winners have included Juniper Networks and Redback Networks, and Kaul are looking for an engineering team to build a lithium-ion battery with five times the life of anything found in cell phones, PDAs, or cameras. Matsushita and Sanyo are pushing the limits on lithium-ion cells, as are a couple of promising startups. But as with ultracapacitors, Khosla and Kaul think the right inventor will come from an academic lab. "We see research that proves it's attainable," Kaul says. "This is not a flying car. If it was, I'd ask for 20 times."

What they'll invest: $2 million for a 10- to 15-person team to show proof of concept

Send your pitch to: [email protected]. -- S.H.

When they say "five times the life", I don't know if they mean five times greater energy density (which would be revolutionary) or merely five times the lifespan before it needs replacement (which would be less revolutionary, but still great).
 

danny

Administrator
Aug 15, 2006
1,445
542
California
wow, interesting investments.
These techs really excite me.
Hopefully they can make a tesla protype with one of these batteries in years to come.
That would really place electric cars as a more permanent and inevitable system ;)
 

tonybelding

Active Member
Aug 17, 2006
1,474
788
Hamilton, Texas
Elon added a bit of new information to the end of the latest blog entry on Tesla's website. He wrote:

Lithium-Ion batteries are the most efficient way to store electricity today, but I suspect we will find that there are even better technologies down the road. In fact, my original reason for moving to Silicon Valley about a dozen years ago, before I got distracted by the Internet, was to do a Ph.D. at Stanford in the physics and materials science of high-energy density capacitors, specifically for electric vehicle applications. Prior to that, I had worked for two summers at a small company called Pinnacle Research, which focused on ultra-capacitors. Capacitors have the advantages of a quasi-infinite cycle and calendar life, extremely low charge/discharge losses, and charge times measured in minutes (if you have high voltage and thick wire) for a car-size pack. If the capacitor energy density problem is solved, the gasoline vs. electric car contest goes from being a contestable fight to gasoline getting the WWF Smackdown.
 

CTF

Member
Mar 22, 2007
6
1
On a much, much larger scale, I believe that American Superconductor was doing and actually delivering capacitors to be used for grid management. They were also getting on to applications for marine motors for the navy. Any Relevance to the Tesla thing. Maybe a topic for another thread, but the decaying infrastructure of the electrical power grid is going to be an issue especially on point for an industry that will be making significant draws.
 

sergeklapwijk

Member
May 4, 2009
5
0
Li-Ion/Ultracapacitor combo?

Has Tesla ever considered a combination of a small UltraCap with their Li-Ion battery pack in their ESS? If so (which I suspect), why have they chosen not to implement it?

Much like:

AFS Trinity
AFS Trinity Power – A revolution in Fast Energy Storage™ featuring the Extreme Hybrid™.

or Maxwell + Tianjin Lishen

Green Car Congress: Maxwell Technologies and Tianjin Lishen Batteries to Develop and Market Hybrid Energy Storage Systems (HESS) Combining Ultracaps and Li-ion Batteries
Green Car Congress: Maxwell Technologies and Argonne National Lab to Collaborate on Testing Ultracapacitor/Lithium-Ion Battery Combination for Hybrid Vehicles

With rapid charging/discharging going through the ultracap, feeding and being fed at a slow rate by the Li-Ion battery, allows much longer lifespan..

As lithium supplies will get scarce in the future, the experience of ultracapacitors (by then greatly developed) can be used to create a full ultracap ESS system.

Ultracaps were discovered 10 years before anyone heard of Lithium Ion, so it would be a mistake to say it is an infantile technology. Might be for automotive, but so is Li-Ion.
 

TEG

Teslafanatic
Aug 20, 2006
21,766
8,742
This idea was discussed on their blogs years back and the short answer was that they didn't need to.

There was some discussion here:
Tesla Motors - Customers
(search for "Brandon" and look at responses)

I think they project that the calendar life of Li-Ion will run out around the same time as cycle life in this application. Also their pack is built such that it can take in or put out as much power as they need (e.g.: it can soak up full regen, and get their target 0-60 < 4s). So why bother with the expense and complexity of an ultracap front end? Apparently the control electronics would be very tricky as ultracaps go through a much wider voltage range than batteries.
 
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vfx

Well-Known Member
Aug 18, 2006
14,790
40
CA CA
This is one area that I totally believe Elon is all over. If it's smart, he would do it. No doubt at all. No doubt.
 

sergeklapwijk

Member
May 4, 2009
5
0
Apologies for clogging up the ol' filters with dust from bringing this subject back to life, I really wanted to know this. Li-Ion does not like the fast (dis)charging from brake energy regen etc., even if the battery would be capable of it, it lowers the lifespan, batteries like to take it slow.
Reminding myself of laptop batteries that are totally wasted after 2-3 years, while I am positive their calendar life is a multiple of that.

LFP batteries have some drawbacks:

3. Rapid charging will shorten lithium-ion battery (including LFP) life-span when compared to traditional trickle charging.

It is true there is a voltage problem, but that seems a minor technical challenge rather than a argument against it. Complexity and benefit seems to have been weighed, IMO the benefit has been underminded, maybe I am wrong. Elon knows a lot about it, he would have been part of the discussion.
 

WarpedOne

Supreme Premier
Aug 17, 2006
4,339
6,356
Slovenia, Europe
from brake energy regen etc., even if the battery would be capable of it, it lowers the lifespan, batteries like to take it slow.

Regen braking is far from strong enough to really task the batteries. Roadster's pack has maximum power output of about 220kW, maximum regen power goes up to 30kW (limited with tire grip) which is about 0.5C. Ultracap pack would have to be really really big, expensive and heavy to make any real difference for batteries. Your are much better of investing that money, space and weight into batteries. You also get more range doing this and more lifespan.

Reminding myself of laptop batteries that are totally wasted after 2-3 years
Laptop batteries are put into environments that stress exactly their weakest points. They are being charged to 100% and than completely discharged, during their work hours they are being heated by powerful CPUs above 40, even above 50 degrees Celsius, they don't have anything resembling adequate cooling etc.

Roadster's battery pack has 4 year warranty. Why Tesla can afford this? Because they've learned much about what you can do with Li-Ion batteries and what you should not do.
 

sergeklapwijk

Member
May 4, 2009
5
0
Regen braking is far from strong enough to really task the batteries. Roadster's pack has maximum power output of about 220kW, maximum regen power goes up to 30kW (limited with tire grip) which is about 0.5C. Ultracap pack would have to be really really big, expensive and heavy to make any real difference for batteries. Your are much better of investing that money, space and weight into batteries. You also get more range doing this and more lifespan.

Why do you come to the conclusion they have to be really big? Have you seen the AFS Trinity car? That is the system I am envisioning. Charging and discharging cycles, most significant example being acceleration, limits the batteries life cycle (it's no trickle charging), see the quote in my previous post, ultracaps are a whole different story. They have a power density that are multiples of the power density of batteries, so I don't agree on heavy. AFS Trinity's system of pretty compact as a whole and they use off-the-shelf parts..

xh-cutaway.jpg


Ultracapacitor prices have dropped a factor of two every two years for the past six years, and the price drop is projected to continue through 2010 and beyond.

All I am saying the development is moving towards viable implementation. Why would we solely rely on lithium? And why would we stress a battery to rapid discharging if we can increase the mileage + life cycle with a simple energy flow system?
 

TEG

Teslafanatic
Aug 20, 2006
21,766
8,742
It makes more sense for vehicles with smaller size packs using low power density cells. The Roadster pack is so big that it has all the power it needs.

I wonder how well the Model S 160 mile pack can handle 300kW output?
 

WarpedOne

Supreme Premier
Aug 17, 2006
4,339
6,356
Slovenia, Europe
In such circumstances it makes more sense to simply use higher power density cells like A123.

I wonder how well the Model S 160 mile pack can handle 300kW output?
We already speculated about that, shorter range version will very probably be lower power.
Otherwise it would outperform the much more expensive long range variant. Politically incorrect.
 
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TEG

Teslafanatic
Aug 20, 2006
21,766
8,742
L.A. Auto Show: EcoGeek Talks to Tesla and GM About Supercapacitors
Hank Green said:
...While at the L.A. Auto Show last week, I had a chance to talk with Nick Zielinski, GMs director of Vehicle Technology Integration, and JB Straubel, the CTO of Tesla Motors. While conversing with each of these extremely well informed folks, I brought up supercapacitors.

Both of these guys are heavily reliant on battery technology and both of them are putting varying amounts of faith in Lithium Ion batteries. Obviously, it's working well for Tesla, and we can hope it will work well for GM.

When asked about supercapacitors, both men had the same response: Supercaps represent interesting technology, but they cannot replace batteries, and using them to augment batteries is too complex...
 

tdelta1000

Active Member
Jul 19, 2009
1,667
12
South Florida
Mr. Musk is at it again. This was found on Gigaom.com
Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk says he bets that it could be capacitors — rather than batteries — that deliver an important breakthrough for electric transportation. “If I were to make a prediction, I’d think there’s a good chance that it is not batteries. But capacitors,” said Musk at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco on Wednesday.

Capacitors, or ultracapacitors, are energy storage devices that can deliver quick bursts of intense power and can withstand more charge and discharge cycles than batteries. They’re like batteries, and can be used in complement with batteries.

But it’s interesting that the CEO of a company that bases its technology around standardized, small format, lithium-ion batteries would make such a comment. Perhaps Tesla is doing some R&D on capacitor storage deep in its Palo Alto, Calif. labs?

The original reason Musk came out to California years ago was to do research on advanced, high energy density capacitors at Stanford, and to try to leverage what Musk said was tens of billions of dollars of R&D that’s been applied to capacitors for advanced ship making. But then, that whole Internet thing and PayPal happened. And then Tesla (and SolarCity and SpaceX).

Musk says he’s optimistic there will be a solution found by one or another companies in the capacitor space that “will supercede,” batteries. The capacitor companies I’ve written about include Ioxus, which makes ultracapacitors for transportation in complement with batteries; EEstor, which seems like it’s not ever going to deliver anything; Recapping, which is backed by Khosla Ventures and won an ARPA-E grant; and EnerG2, which makes materials for ultracapacitor makers.


Here's a link to an interesting video. Ultracapacitors
 
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Jul 20, 2012
406
218
Houston, TX
Supercapacitor made inexpensively.. Wouldn't this be sweet if this was the future of the Tesla product line?!?

[video=vimeo;51873011]http://vimeo.com/51873011[/video]
 

Alpha

Member
Dec 4, 2012
406
0
Earth
Elon talks about ultracaps again

I've wondered before why ultracapacitors aren't used in the Model S as a buffer between the battery, to ease usage of the battery and also so that regen can be used when the battery is cold.

Well someone recently had the chance to ask Elon just that question, and the answer is that they simply aren't good enough yet for that task:

http://www.greenoptimistic.com/2013/02/23/model-s-cold-weather-elon-musk-interview/
 

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