A startup called Nanotune says its ultracapacitor technology could make electric cars cheaper and extend their range. The company, based in Mountain View, California, has developed a way to make electrodes that results in ultracapacitors with five to seven times as much storage capacity as conventional ones.
Conventional ultracapacitors, which have the advantage of delivering fast bursts of power and can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times without losing much capacity, are too expensive and store too little energy to replace batteries.
Nanotune, however, which has raised $3 million from the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, says its ultracapacitors are close to competing with batteries in terms of energy storage, and could soon surpass them. Using a conventional electrolyte, the company has demonstrated energy storage of 20 watt-hours per kilogram, as opposed to roughly five watt-hours for a conventional ultracapacitor. Using a more expensive ionic-liquid electrolyte, it has made ultracapacitors that store 35 watt-hours per kilogram. By the end of the year, the company hopes to approximately double this storage capacity, says Nanotune CEO Kuan-Tsae Huang. At 40 watt-hours per kilogram, the ultracapacitors would be an improvement over the batteries used in some hybrid vehicles.