Ultracapacitors Look to Fit into Energy Storage

By Martin LaMonica on September 29, 2009

Judged by media buzz and venture capital dollars, lithium ion batteries are the name of the game in the emerging field of storage for electric vehicles and the power grid. But there is a cadre of companies pursuing ultracapacitors that can work hand in hand with batteries.

South Korea-based Neescap on Tuesday said that it has raised $9 million in bridge financing to expand production of its ultracapacitors for the transportation, power industry, and consumer electronics markets.

In the U.S., early-stage companies designing the materials and electrolytes for ultracapacitors include Graphene Energy, EnerG2, and Ioxus. Much hyped EEStor, backed by venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, has signed a supply deal with electric vehicle company Zenn, although its products are still not commercially available.

Compared to batteries, ultracapacitors can't store a lot of energy, so they wouldn't typically be used alone to run plug-in electric vehicles. On the other hand, ultracapacitors are "power dense," which means that they can discharge the energy they do have quickly. Conversely, they can be recharged quickly--in seconds or minutes, and with almost no degradation in performance over time, say backers.

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