Many of the electric vehicle blogs that I follow are all buzzing right now over the idea of supercapacitors — well, more accurately, graphene-based supercapacitors, which could potentially solve a few of the issues that EV’s currently face with market adoption.
What’s the big deal? Well with batteries, one can store a great deal of energy in the cells, but the rate of discharge (and the rate of charging) is relatively limited. Capacitors on the other hand have the inverse problem, quick to charge and discharge, the amount of energy that they can hold however, is relatively small.
In theory, supercapacitors have the best qualities of both batteries and capacitors, featuring both high-energy capacities and quick discharge/recharge rates, and in this realm graphene is showing to have very promising results.
Basically a molecule-thin sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a lattice, until recently producing graphene has been a very laborious undertaking, and one that did not scale well for mass production. However, some clever scientists at UCLA have come up with a relatively cheap and easy way to produce graphene sheets, and the technology bodes well for making supercapacitors a more practical solution for electric vehicles.
Allowing vehicles to rapidly charge (as in within a few minutes, instead of hours), supercapacitors solve the great recharge-time issue with EV’s, and would potentially be on par with gasoline vehicles, if not quicker in this regard.
The down side is that graphene supercapacitors are currently about half as energy-dense as the current crop of lithium-ion batteries, which makes them physically cumbersome in applications like on a motorcycle.