Energy

Skeleton and KIT promise graphene SuperBattery with 15-second charging

Skeleton and KIT promise graph...
Skeleton's ultracapacitors will work alongside lithium-ion cells in the SuperBattery
Skeleton's ultracapacitors will work alongside lithium-ion cells in the SuperBattery
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Skeleton's ultracapacitors will work alongside lithium-ion cells in the SuperBattery
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Skeleton's ultracapacitors will work alongside lithium-ion cells in the SuperBattery

Estonia's Skeleton Technologies and Germany's Karlsruhe Institute of Technology have partnered up to complete development on what they're calling the SuperBattery for EVs – "a groundbreaking graphene battery with a 15-second charging time."

So what is it? Well, it appears it's a hybrid pack combining regular lithium-ion cells and Skeleton's own ultracapacitor cells, which feature a curved graphene construction, working in tandem, each part playing to its strengths.

To put it simply, lithium batteries offer high energy density, meaning they store a lot of energy, but they tend to have a fairly low power density, meaning they charge and discharge relatively slowly. That's why EVs take so long to charge up, which is one key bottleneck the auto industry would love to eliminate.

Supercapacitors, or ultracapacitors, store charge statically instead of in a chemical form, so they offer enormous power density, charging and discharging at vastly higher rates, and last for hundreds of thousands of cycles without degrading. The flip side here is that their energy density is terrible compared to lithium; to hold the same amount of energy you need a battery pack many times bigger than a comparable lithium pack.

The solution, as has been proposed before by companies like Nawa – and which many believe underpins Tesla's acquisition of Maxwell – is to put together a hybrid energy system with a mix of lithium and supercapacitors. The lithium gives you long-term, high-density storage, while the capacitors give you high power outputs, the ability to work across a very wide range of temperatures, and super-fast charge capability, not only at the charging station but also when it comes to harvesting energy through regenerative braking.

It is indeed a neat solution if you get the balance right. But to say you're offering 15-second charge times comes across to us as possibly a bit disingenuous. Yes, ultracapacitors can charge that quickly, no problems. But the lithium part of the pack certainly can't. So what's really going on here is probably more along these lines: if you run your battery out, you'll be able to do a super-quick capacitor charge that'll get you enough energy for some short-range driving.

It'll likely be a small fraction of the total range figure, so a pack like this won't do much for your ability to do long tours in your EV. What's more, it relies on charging stations that can offer an insane charging rate; potentially by trickle-charging their own supercapacitors so all the lights on the block don't go out when you plug your car in.

Still, the upshot could end up being pretty neat in terms of burst power and regenerative efficiency, and Skeleton says it's signed a billion-Euro "letter of intent with a leading automotive OEM to bring the technology to the market."

The company is also working on its energy density capabilities, with a new CTO coming on board in May and announcing a long-term roadmap toward a tenfold boost in energy density that could make things really interesting.

We look forward to hearing more from Skeleton – and indeed more from Chinese company Toomen, which has reportedly been doing some pretty amazing things in the high-density supercapacitor field as well. It's starting to seem inevitable that capacitors will find their place in the EV powertrains of the future.

Source: Skeleton Technologies

18 comments
Rumata
The future of energy storage is the high energy density ultracapacitor.
And it always will be.
vince
Hybrid LiON + supercapacitors have already been used successfully on motorcycles to provide incredible short term performance. Tesla is going to do the same using its Maxwell Tech comoany it purchased to make a hybrid option on the 2022 Roadster which will simply make it the fastest quickest sportscar ever made by a wide margin. Were talking 0 to 60 in 1.3 seconds, quarter mile in 7.2 seconds at 188 mph and a top speed of over 275 mph.
john Wordley
Regenerative braking so I believe only ‘captures’ less than 20% of the energy available due to the limitation of the battery systems to ‘accept’ this energy in such a short space of time when braking. The capacitor would potentially capture the ‘lost’ 80% and increase the overall efficiency of the regenerative braking system. Interesting development. I drive a Prius hybrid. This would help in future hybrid as well as EV vehicles.
michael_dowling
john Wordley: Super caps are there to capture braking energy,and all of it,not just 20%,up to the point they are full. After that,regen is fed into the battery pack,again up to the point they can't accept any more charge. At that point,your mechanical brakes would be used.
guzmanchinky
There are SO many companies working SO hard on this with SO much money at stake it's only a matter of time before we see a 5 minute to charge ev.
WB
Every car mfg going stir crazy throwing billions at unproven risky stuff just ask gm about Nikola doing anything to keep having Tesla eating their lunch and leading them behind the shed. The Germans are so screwed they just dont know it yet
robert80
Good observation about having all the lights on the block go out when you plug your car in. People don't really appreciate the power required to charge a car and how that translates into current over time. Right now, if every car in the US were transformed into an electric car overnight, it would bring the electrical grid to its knees, also overnight. The square footage in e.g. solar cells required to fully charge a Tesla battery over a single day is a bit daunting. TANSTAAFL.
bwana4swahili
"a long-term roadmap toward a tenfold boost in energy density that could make things really interesting" is the real take-away from this article. EV's might finally be getting to the point of usable!?
jerryd
This is another scam and limited use as the article correctly stated the lithium does not get charged in 15 seconds and there are li-ion , LFP batteries that can outdo this SC on specific power and last a good while vs .5 sec for the SC boost.
foxpup
This tech, mixing batteries with super-capacitors, although nothing new, is a valuable way to up the coolness of EVs since it makes it practical for them to have wicked amounts of performance if the car is matched up with powerfull enough motors and controlling electronics. EVs need to be more cool than ICE units to draw the market over and this tech can help.