Regenerative Braking Works for Gas-Powered Cars, Too

Nippon Chemi Con's Micro Hybrid Capacitor

Automotive World 12 is currently under way in Tokyo, Japan – a subsidiary of the 4th International Automotive Electronics Exhibition. One of the potentially immediately useful products on display was at the Nippon Chemi Con (NCC) booth – an energy recovery system to store electricity compatible with standard combustion vehicles.

Easy Come, Easy Go (Electricity, That Is)

Unlike most automotive electricity storage systems, NCC’s system does not use lithium ion or lead acid batteries. Instead, it relies on a double layer electric capacitor to store its energy. The capacitor has recently been the focus of quite a bit of research and speculation as a potential successor to the lithium ion battery for electric cars, but the problem is that it discharges its energy very quickly and can’t hold much power compared to a battery of the same size. Clearly, that doesn’t work quite so well when the capacitor is the only energy source for the vehicle.

NCC’s system isn’t meant to power the whole vehicle; rather, the thermos-sized capacitor supplements the gasoline engine by using regenerative braking to charge the capacitor each time the car slows down. The capacitor then powers the electrical systems in the car.

Are You Sure The A/C Uses Gas?

An NCC employee speculated that perhaps 10% of a car’s fuel goes to power its electrical systems; by using regenerative braking to supply the power for electronics, the car’s fuel economy can be instantly improved. There aren’t many examples of this currently on the market, but mass production could resolve the second major issue with capacitors (namely, that they’re not cheap to make).

As emissions regulations become stricter – particularly in Europe – such micro-hybrid devices may become a quick and easy way to reduce emissions and improve fuel economy. It seems like a short-term solution to me, but it could buy time to improve on EV and hybrid technology. What do you think? Let us know in the comments, below.

Source | Image: Nippon Chemi Con.

 

Charis Michelsen

spent 7 years living in Germany and Japan, studying both languages extensively, doing translation and education with companies like Bosch, Nissan, Fuji Heavy, and others. Charis has a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and currently lives in Chicago, Illinois. She also believes that Janeway was the best Star Trek Captain.