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Sinautec Makes Ultracapacitors Work

Richard Levangie | Friday October 23rd, 2009 | 8 Comments

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sinautec ultracapacitor busUltracapacitors are the Holy Grail of clean transportation: they’re powerful, they’re reliable, they’re relatively inexpensive and they charge in minutes. But they also discharge in minutes, and that’s the problem companies like EEStor and Altair Nano are working furiously to combat. Even the best ultracapacitors have about five percent of the average lithium-ion battery’s storage capacity.

But Sinautec Automobile Technologies, a capacitor company based in Arlington, Virginia, has decided to to turn the technology’s weakness into its advantage. Along with Chinese partner Shanghai Aowei Technology Development Limited Corporation, Sinautec has developed an ultracapacitor-powered bus that charges quickly every few stops. A collector on the bus roof extends to overhead power lines, and in minutes the batteries — called banks — charge fully.

“It’s a brilliant concept,” says ultracapacitor expert and MIT electrical engineering professor Joel Schindall. “It’s not well suited for electric-only cars, but it is practical to stop a bus every few city blocks.”

It’s also both cheaper and cleaner than operating diesel buses. The company claims that even when powered by electricity from the dirtiest coal-fired power plant, their buses would still produce two-thirds less CO2 than a traditional bus. What’s more, they’re 40 percent more efficient that the average electric trolley.

Ultracapacitors offer advantages over lithium-ion, as well. The battery can last longer than the vehicle it powers, charging between 50,000 and 500,000 times. If the system does outlast the vehicle, it can be removed and put to another purpose. And Sinautec Executive Director Dan Ye claims that in a comparison between his company’s buses and lithium-ion-powered buses used in the Beijing Olympics, the ultracapacitors were far more reliable.

After three years of dependable service in a Shanghai suburb, Sinautec brought its technology stateside and staged a demonstration at the American University campus in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday. The model displayed could travel up to 45 miles between charges thanks to an energy capacity advancement.

“I hope that we can educate people about technology as much as we can save the environment,” said Ye. “I hope that we can replace a lot of diesel vehicles.”


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  • Brent

    >>The model displayed could travel up to 45 miles between charges thanks to an energy capacity advancement.<<

    I assume this was a bus that was equipped with capacitors AND batteries. There is no way a bus can travel 45 miles on a capacitor charge alone.

  • Bob Dobbs

    I spent many years in San Francisco riding electric “trolley buses” powered by overhead wires above the street. How is this system clearly superior to that decades-old tech?

    • Michael

      45 miles does seem like a long way on capacitors, but busses have a lot of space under the passenger area, so it’s conceivable that they might be able to go that far on capacitors alone despite the lower storage density. Conceivable, but I agree this aspect calls for further enlightenment.

      The advantage over electric trolleys is infrastructure. The bus is not tethered to an electric line and can go anywhere. Put a charger above every bus station that has access to power and the busses can run indefinitely from the mini-charges they get at each stop.

    • Tony

      The bus above doesn’t have to have overhead wires above its entire track, unlike trolley buses.

  • http://fyngyrz.com/ Ben

    Brent, right — this is a hybrid, ultracaps and batteries. They also make a full ultracap version with a range of 3.5 miles (air conditioning running 100% of the time) to 5.5 miles (air conditioning off 100% of the time.) That one has 5.9 KHW of ultracaps, and average power consumption of 1.5 KWH/mile.

    For a bus, this is fine. For anything else, well, at least not yet. Though where I live, a small town in Montana, a three mile range per *day* would be fine for a personal vehicle.

    Bob, running wires all over is expensive. It also restricts the vehicle to a very specific route. Charging at the bus stops only eliminates both of those problems. Another issue is, as you must be familiar, that you will remember the sparking at night, and the smell of ozone, right? This is because it is difficult to maintain 100% contact with the wires. When contact is in the process of being lost, power is also lost through poor connections, which both wear the conductors and pickups, and stress the motor components. As this bus isn’t moving when it charges, these problems don’t apply either.

  • http://www.hiperformer.com/ Car Engines

    the clean bus run with electricity , there will be no pollution .
    thanks

  • turidani

    Well, it is funny, that even the first “pure ultracapacitor bus” in 2006 in Shanghai must have been a “hybrid (ultracapacitor plus battery) solution, as it specified 5-10 minutes of charging time at the end stations, which is totally meaningless for UCs.

    The concept of UC bus is quite O.K.
    But it seems, that they couldn't deliver the promised power density, so now they had to mess with the performance data.

    It is obvious, that they didn't achieve their original goals. Othervise, they would told all the relevant performance details – like total passenger capacity, which is still unknown.

    You can easily tell just from the datasheet, when somebody is cheating.

    If you don't have to lie, then you will proudly tell every details.

    But if you have to lie, then your datasheet become a puzzle.

  • turidani

    Well, it is funny, that even the first “pure ultracapacitor bus” in 2006 in Shanghai must have been a “hybrid (ultracapacitor plus battery) solution, as it specified 5-10 minutes of charging time at the end stations, which is totally meaningless for UCs.

    The concept of UC bus is quite O.K.
    But it seems, that they couldn't deliver the promised power density, so now they had to mess with the performance data.

    It is obvious, that they didn't achieve their original goals. Othervise, they would told all the relevant performance details – like total passenger capacity, which is still unknown.

    You can easily tell just from the datasheet, when somebody is cheating.

    If you don't have to lie, then you will proudly tell every details.

    But if you have to lie, then your datasheet become a puzzle.