There’s an ongoing shift in the automotive industry to identify and integrate different energy-storage technologies, driven by the electrification of mechanical subsystems. The ultracapacitor already has demonstrated its ability to give vehicles of different sizes a source of regenerative power in tandem with processes typically supported by batteries.

Ultracapacitors differ from batteries by storing energy in an electric field to allow for quick charge and discharge as needed, but they can work alongside batteries in addition to ultracapacitor-only solutions. Those capabilities make ultracapacitors an ideal aspect of automotive electrification moving forward. The conversation seemingly always begins with start/stop capability, but there are additional applications of electrification.

For both OEMs and Tier 1s, one of the great concerns in seeking new uses of electrification, at least in the past, was sacrificing performance when making considerations for fuel economy. Just the same, leveraging developing technologies to improve certain aspects of an automobile remains a critical concern for manufacturers.

While many industry players are exploring the potential of lithium-ion batteries for vehicle electrification, the addition of ultracapacitors for hybrid-electric systems provides another layer of energy-storage advantages, and many manufacturers are looking at building in ultracapacitors up front for future model years. Where Li-ion batteries provide drivers with long-lasting energy and range, ultracapacitors assist with short bursts of high-power activity, such as engine restart after braking.

In late 2014, the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium announced plans to develop a high-performance hybrid ultracapacitor/lithium-ion battery for stop/start idle elimination microhybrid vehicles with its selection of Maxwell Technologies for a 24-month development contract.

With more than 1 million cars on the road today that use ultracapacitors, such as the voltage-stabilization systems in PSA Peugeot Citroen’s C5 and C4 diesel models, the implementation of ultracapacitors presents new opportunities beyond stop/start down the road. Cars already are using electric turbochargers to perform better, while engineers have integrated active suspension systems. Both of these advancements are chances for ultracapacitors to improve on two features already offering benefits to drivers.