Ultracapacitors – What are they?

An ultracapacitor, also some times called a supercapacitor, is an electrical component capable of holding hundreds of times more electrical charge or energy than a standard capacitor. This characteristic makes ultracapacitors useful in devices that require relatively little current and low voltage. In some situations, an ultracapacitor can take the place of a rechargeable low-voltage electrochemical batteries. Unlike batteries, which store energy chemically by squirrelling it away in the materials of their electrodes, capacitors store it physically as static electricity clinging to the surfaces of their equivalents of electrodes, which are known as plates. This static can be tapped or added to more swiftly than any chemical reaction can manage, so capacitors both store and discharge electricity more rapidly than batteries do. That makes them ideal for delivering short bursts of power.


A standard capacitor contains two electrically conductive surfaces, separated by an insulating layer or dielectric. The capacitance increases as the surface area of the conductors increases. The capacitance also goes up as the spacing between the surfaces decreases, and as the dielectric constant of the intervening insulator increases. However, a practical limit exists as to the capacitance obtainable with this design. An ultracapacitor differs fundamentally in its internal structure. Instead of having two electrodes separated by an insulating layer, an ultracapacitor employs a porous medium that produces the effect of a pair of plates with gigantic surface area, separated by only a few nanometers.  As a result, an ultracapacitor has far more capacitance than any conventional high-capacitance component.

As an example ultracapacitors can be found in emergency radios and torches. The ultracapacitor charges up with the help of a miniature DC generator that the user can manually operate for a couple of minutes by turning a small crank. Once the ultracapacitor has acquired a full charge, the device can function for quite awhile before it needs a recharge.

The principal disadvantage of the ultracapacitor, compared with older capacitor designs, is the fact that the ultracapacitor cannot withstand high voltage. While an electrolytic capacitor might be rated at several hundred DC volts, ultracapacitors have maximum ratings of only about 5 DC volts. In order to use ultracapacitors at higher voltages, multiple components must be connected in series (end-to-end, like the links in a chain). Then their voltage ratings add up, just as battery voltages add in a series connection.

This is a fast moving space and has a direct implications to the EV space as alternative energy storage. The Economist recently covered the work of a European firm Skeleton Technologies who are making impressive claims using Graphene as their secret sauce. Highlights below.

Skeleton Technologies itself is the creation of Taavi Madiberk and Oliver Ahlberg, who set up their company in 2009 based on the work of a group of Estonian researchers. Initially, it produced a limited number of ultracapacitors for motor racing, where they are used in kinetic-energy recovery systems (KERS) that recycle energy which would otherwise be lost as heat during braking and turn it into electricity to assist acceleration. Another early customer was the European Space Agency. It uses ultracapacitors to handle peak-power demand in its satellites, such when they are moving the arms of their solar panels. Not only are ultracapacitors more efficient than lithium-ion batteries at harvesting energy from solar panels, they are also lighter, smaller and have a longer life—up to 1m cycles of charging and discharging, according to Mr Madiberk. A lithium-ion battery fades after about 1,000 cycles.

Back on Earth, the company is now working with vehicle-makers. Adgero, a French firm, is using Skeleton’s devices to fit KERS to diesel-powered lorries. Adgero’s system, which it claims provides fuel savings of 25%, is being tested by operators including Eddie Stobart and Fraikin, two large British trucking companies. Similar arrangements would work well on trains, and also on dockside cranes, providing spurts of power when goods need to be lifted and recovering energy when they are lowered again.

With new investment the company went into full production in April, when it opened a new factory near Tallinn, Estonia’s capital, that is capable of turning out half a million of the devices a year. Next February, if all goes well, this will be joined by a second plant near Dresden, Germany, to take the company’s combined output to 5m a year. At the moment, then, Skeleton’s ultracapacitor seems the bee’s knees. How long that will last depends on when the next big idea makes it from the lab to the world. The latest candidate is offered by Mircea Dinca and his colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in this week’s Nature Materials. Its plates are coated with materials called metal-organic frameworks. Whether it will ever be heard of again remains to be seen.

Renault Nissan to provide EVs for UN’s COP22 in Marrakech

The Renault-Nissan Alliance will provide a fleet of 50 all-electric vehicles as the official passenger-car provider for the United Nation’s COP22 Climate Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. The fully electric fleet will shuttle delegates.

More than 25,000 participants from 195 countries are expected to attend the annual climate summit during Nov. 7-18. It marks the second time the UN will use a zero-emission shuttle fleet in support of public transport at one of its major conferences.

The COP22 fleet will feature the Renault ZOE, the Nissan LEAF compact car and the seven-seat Nissan e-NV200 van. The vehicles will be available to shuttle delegates 24 hours, seven days a week to key venues at the conference, as a complement to public transportation.

leaf and zoe

The Alliance will also provide a network of more than 20 accelerated and standard charging stations at strategic locations. The accelerated charging stations will be able to charge the EVs from 0 to 80 percent in about one hour.

The Renault-Nissan Alliance is the global leader in zero-emission vehicles. With six models, it has already sold more than 360,000 electric vehicles worldwide. Nissan LEAF, launched in 2010, remains the industry’s best-selling EV. Renault ZOE is the best-performing EV in Europe. The Alliance has sold about half of the electric vehicles on the road globally today including the Renault Twizy two-seat, urban commuter vehicle, and the Nissan e-NV200 van, which has been on sale in Europe and Japan since 2014.

In addition, the Renault-Nissan’s Tangier, Morocco, plant is designed to move towards “zero CO2” emissions through the use of renewable resources, for thermal energy produced on site, as well as its purchased electricity. The plant began operations in 2012, and its approach remains unique in the automobile industry.

In Morocco, Renault Group is the only major automaker to market a fully electric range of vehicles. Thanks to COP22 and the desire of the Kingdom to develop low-carbon energy, several companies have decided to bet on the 100 percent electric car by buying fleets.

“The Renault-Nissan Alliance is proud to contribute to COP22 by providing a fleet of 50 100 percent electric vehicles,” said Marc Nassif, managing director of Renault Morocco Group and Alliance COP22 leader. “This technology, coupled with an increasingly decarbonized electric mix, is the solution for individual mobility to address the issue of global warming and enhance air quality in our cities.”

Isao Sekiguchi, managing director of the North Africa Region and Egypt for Nissan Group, agreed.

”Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing the world today,” Sekiguchi said “The Renault-Nissan Alliance was not only quick to recognize the import contribution the automotive industry could make to the collective effort to tackle emissions, but was also quick to act.”

The Alliance was also an official partner of COP21. The fleet of 200 electric vehicles from the Alliance represented the world’s largest EV fleet ever provided for an international conference. This fleet shuttled more than 8,000 delegates, media and negotiators during the two-week United Nations annual climate change conference in Paris last year. In doing so, it traveled at least 175,000 kilometers without emitting any CO2 tailpipe emissions and without using any petroleum, which saved nearly 182 barrels of oil and avoided 18 tons of CO2 being emitted.

The Alliance will also participate in Solutions COP22, an international exhibition on climate-change solutions, to be held in the Green Zone in Marrakech. The exhibition, which will take place Nov. 7- 18, will feature CO2 solutions from cities, businesses and other organizations around the world. In addition, the Alliance will have electric vehicles available for public test drives.

The Best Cheap Electric Cars of 2016 in the US

Also known as EV’s, electric cars were once thought of as an engineering dream that was out of reach for the majority of people that would want to drive one. Today, the electric car market is booming and there are more available than ever before yet many people have questions about the best ones for sale. While there are many options to choose from, we have narrowed the list down to show you the best electric cars of 2016 so that you will know which may best suit the lifestyle that you have or the amenities that you may want to have with the car that you will purchase.

While personal preference will vary from one person to the next, we have outlined the best electric cars of 2016 to help make car shopping easier to do.

Chevrolet Spark EV


The Chevrolet Spark EV is a fully electric minicar that is completely emissions free and can travel up to 119 MPGe via the highway and 82MPGe in the city. It is essentially the most productive electric cars available to U.S. consumers and has a sales price of under $26,000. This car uses a rapid charger and can charge to 80% in under 20 minutes with a DC fast charge system and a full charge in less than 7 hours when using a 2540V battery charger. It is, of course, always wise to have a quality charging cable on hand to get the most efficient charge as quickly as possible. The Chevrolet Spark EV offers remote start and pre-cooling/heating, Wi-Fi hotspot and On Star $G LTE as well as the comfort that only as a fully functional 7-inch LCD display screen that connects with a smartphone for the use of informative apps and to view vital information about the Spark EV performance. This car can be used in a normal drive mode as well as a sport mode with faster acceleration.

Volkswagen e-Golf

E Golf

The Volkswagen e-Golf has an EPA estimation for 126 miles of highway driving and 105 miles in the city and can go up to 83 miles per charge. The e-Golf comes fully equipped with a touchscreen information and entertainment system and navigation may be added if the owner prefers to have it. With no gasoline there will be no polluting emissions and this car is roomy for passengers and equipped with an easy to access hatch back for storage during travel. The e-Golf includes great features including front assist, park pilot and park assist with help alert the driver of possible collisions as well as audible signals that help to park and pull out into traffic safely. Pricing starts at $28,000 and includes keyless access, a rear camera system and a media touchscreen sound system.

Chevrolet Bolt EV

bolt EV

The Chevrolet Bolt EV is another great electric car manufactured by Chevrolet and is an affordable option for those looking for a reliable EV. This car will be released for the 2017 sales year and is one of the most powerful EV’s to hit the market with a 200 Horsepower electric engine that has the capability of going up to 200 miles per charge. Pricing is expected to begin as low as $30,000 for this all electric vehicle. The interior is roomy and has rear foldable seats for storage in the cargo area when the seats are not in use. The Bolt EV seats five comfortably, has a 10.2-inch touchscreen entertainment system and no emissions that would pollute the atmosphere. The charging system will completely charge the car in 9 hours when using a 240-volt charger. 4G LTE Wi-Fi is also available for owners and you can connect your phone contacts and apps and other information with the touchscreen entertainment system for convenience during a drive.

Ford Focus Electric

The 2016 Ford Focus Electric, just as the gasoline powered version, has plenty of room to seat five comfortably and will travel up to 76 miles per charge. This car comes equipped with a rear view camera, security approach lamps, 17-inch aluminum wheels and an easy to access charging port that makes charging at home simple to do. The Ford Focus Electric is comfortable to drive, has plenty of storage space in the back and can reach speeds up to 84 mph.

ford focus EV


Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

While the Smart ForTwo Electric Drives have been available only in limited areas of the U.S., this is a fun car to drive and is available with both gasoline and electric powered motors. The electric version will be available in late 2016 for the 2017 manufacture year. The Smart ForTwo had a rough start due to tight seating spaces and loose steering issues but these faults have been well improved for the new 2016 models and the interior has been redesigned with a roomier environment, a wider width that will ensure comfort for passengers and has a 106-inch length which allows excellent ease for parking in tight spaces. Unlike other electric cars, the Smart ForTwo is not only available as a coupe, but has the option to purchase as a convertible as well. As with many others, it comes with a touchscreen entertainment system that is compatible to use with a smartphone. The U.S. models will be available with an 89 Horsepower turbocharged engine that will go from zero to 62 mph in 14.4 seconds.

Electric cars tend to use less energy than gasoline or diesel fueled cars and will cost far less to run annually. They also have no dangerous and polluting emissions, are quiet to drive and can easily be charged at home while you sleep. While some are only available for sale on the west coast or even in the Northeast, you will find that others, such as the Chevrolet Bolt, will be available from coast to coast. If you find one that interests you and it is not available in your location, you can always hire a reliable auto shipping company to have it brought to you safely. If you prefer taking a little time to get more details on EV’s that you find interesting, you may be interested in knowing that the majority of car manufacturers will be working to have their vehicles available nationwide within the next year to two years. This is something that could bring a great change in the environment as more people will have the opportunity to purchase locally rather than having to travel or place long distance orders for a new electric car.

Tesla to buy SolarCity

Out of the blue, Tesla has announced that it offered to acquire SolarCity for up to $2.8 billion in an attempt to create a one-stop shop for cleaner energy. Tesla said it offered $26.50 to $28.50 per share for SolarCity. The price is 25% to 35% premium to the solar company’s Tuesday close. If the deal goes through, SolarCity will adopt Tesla’s name and sell its solar panels alongside power-storing batteries.


Officially, the Elon Musk reasoning is that suddenly you’ll be able to have your solar panels, car charger and battery storage all installed in one go. To this, we’re sure to hear serenades on the attractiveness of the energy storage business. A business that is already running massively behind expectations.

Tesla shares plunged more than 13 percent to $189.99 in extended trading – amounting to a loss in value of about $4.3 billion, or more than the value of the offer for the other company. Shares of SolarCity rose about 18 percent to $25.02.

Musk, who is the chairman of SolarCity, CEO of Tesla and the largest shareholder of both companies, described the deal as a “no brainer” in a call with reporters. The company could sell customers an electric car, a home battery and a solar system all at once, he said.

“Instead of making three trips to a house to put in a car charger and solar panels and battery pack, you can integrate that into a single visit,” Musk told reporters. “It’s an obvious thing to do.”

SolarCity has about $6.24 billion in liabilities, including debt.

Although it is the U.S. market leader in residential rooftop solar systems, it regularly posts quarterly losses and the stock has fallen nearly 60 percent so far this year, pummeled by investors who see its business model as too complex in a market that has become increasingly competitive.

Musk said Tesla did not know how many of its customers have solar panels, but guessed that most of them were likely interested in solar. In a blog, Tesla described the deal as a way to expand both companies’ markets.

The solar systems will be sold under the premium Tesla brand, which is seeking to expand its target market with a $35,000 electric vehicle called the Model 3 that it will begin delivering late next year.

solar array and tesla roadster

Musk, who owns 19 percent of Tesla and 22 percent of SolarCity, said he would recuse himself from voting on the deal. He could not say how soon shareholders could vote on the deal, as due diligence needs to take place first.

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive, Musk’s first cousin, said he supported the deal but would also recuse himself from voting. Rive’s brother, Peter, is also a founder of the company and its chief technology officer.

Musk and Lyndon Rive hatched the idea for SolarCity during a trip to the Burning Man desert festival in 2004. Over a decade later, SolarCity has become the top U.S. residential solar installer thanks to a no-money-down financing scheme that allows homeowners to pay for their solar panels through a monthly fee that is less than what they would pay their local utility.

Tesla said it offered $26.50 to $28.50 per share for SolarCity, which represents a premium of about 25 percent to 35 percent to the company’s Tuesday close of $21.19. That values the deal at about $2.6 billion to $2.8 billion overall.

In a statement issued late Tuesday, Tesla said its management will host a conference call to discuss the ‘rationale’ surrounding the offer to buy SolarCity. The conference call is scheduled to take place Wednesday morning before U.S. markets open.

From Tesla Announcement:

tesla supercharger

The Tesla Team June 21, 2016

Tesla’s mission has always been tied to sustainability. We seek to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable transportation by offering increasingly affordable electric vehicles. And in March 2015, we launched Tesla Energy, which through the Powerwall and Powerpack allow homeowners, business owners and utilities to benefit from renewable energy storage.

It’s now time to complete the picture. Tesla customers can drive clean cars and they can use our battery packs to help consume energy more efficiently, but they still need access to the most sustainable energy source that’s available: the sun.

The SolarCity team has built its company into the clear solar industry leader in the residential, commercial and industrial markets, with significant scale and growing customer penetration. They have made it easy for customers to switch to clean energy while still providing the best customer experience. We’ve seen this all firsthand through our partnership with SolarCity on a variety of use cases, including those where SolarCity uses Tesla battery packs as part of its solar projects.

So, we’re excited to announce that Tesla today has made an offer to acquire SolarCity. A copy of Tesla’s offer is provided below.

If completed, we believe that a combination of Tesla and SolarCity would provide significant benefits to our shareholders, customers and employees:

  • We would be the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers. This would start with the car that you drive and the energy that you use to charge it, and would extend to how everything else in your home or business is powered. With your Model S, Model X, or Model 3, your solar panel system, and your Powerwall all in place, you would be able to deploy and consume energy in the most efficient and sustainable way possible, lowering your costs and minimizing your dependence on fossil fuels and the grid.
  • We would be able to expand our addressable market further than either company could do separately. Because of the shared ideals of the companies and our customers, those who are interested in buying Tesla vehicles or Powerwalls are naturally interested in going solar, and the reverse is true as well. When brought together by the high foot traffic that is drawn to Tesla’s stores, everyone should benefit.
  • We would be able to maximize and build on the core competencies of each company. Tesla’s experience in design, engineering, and manufacturing should help continue to advance solar panel technology, including by making solar panels add to the look of your home. Similarly, SolarCity’s wide network of sales and distribution channels and expertise in offering customer-friendly financing products would significantly benefit Tesla and its customers.
  • We would be able to provide the best possible installation service for all of our clean energy products. SolarCity is the best at installing solar panel systems, and that expertise translates seamlessly to the installation of Powerwalls and charging systems for Tesla vehicles.
  • Culturally, this is a great fit. Both companies are driven by a mission of sustainability, innovation, and overcoming any challenges that stand in the way of progress.

Today’s offer to acquire SolarCity is only the first step toward a successful combination of Tesla and SolarCity. We will provide a further update if and when an agreement is reached.


Nissan set to expand EV range of cars

Nissan plans electric sports car and crossover vehicle

future nissan EV sports car rear

An article in this weeks Auto Express includes an interview with Nissan Senior vice-president Shiro Nakamura who acknowledged that a new modular platform currently under development will be able to adopt conventional and alternative powertrains – and that this will be key to Nissan’s plan to broaden its EV line-up.

“We don’t want to limit our EVs just to the Leaf,” Nakamura told Auto Express. “We’re the leading EV manufacturer, but I don’t think we can make it just off one EV, so we want to grow the portfolio – that’s our next plan. It could be a crossover, it could be a sports car; we see much more opportunity for EVs than just a hatchback.”

future nissan EV sports car

Nissan’s interest in introducing an all-electric sports car extends back to the 2011 Geneva Motor Show, when the maker revealed the Esflow concept. The rear-wheel-drive electric car produced a modest 107bhp, but could get from 0-62mph in five seconds.There are ongoing discussions within Nissan regarding the design and layout of the new modular platform that’ll underpin the new models. The Leaf’s batteries are currently housed under the floor, which is good for weight distribution but raises the floor level – not something you want in an electric sports car, according to Nakamura. “For a crossover, we don’t care about floor height because the model already has a high ground clearance, [but] a sports car you have to make as low as possible,” he said.

Engineers have been experimenting with placing the batteries under the rear seats and even running them down the transmission tunnel to minimise the amount by which the floor would need to be raised. Nakamura said the research is “part of the study we’re doing”.

Nissan also sees the modular platform’s development as a way of helping reduce the cost of EV tech, rather than creating several bespoke architectures for the various powertrain options the company offers.

Nakamura explained that it would be “maybe five years” before we’re likely to see the first production model spun from the new platform. Nissan is likelyto preview any production vehicle with a concept car ahead of that, however. We say bring them on.