Swiss company ABB is a leading global technology company that specializes in power and automation control devices for industry. For the past 3 years, it has been using advanced supercapacitiors to rapidly recharge the batteries of electric buses in Geneva. Supercapacitors are like a spring that can be slowly compressed (charged) and then later release its stored energy very rapidly — in this case, to charge an electric vehicle. That means they can use energy from the electrical grid to get ready to recharge the next vehicle, whether its a bus, a truck, or a battery powered car.
Each bus can get a 2.5 kWh charge (about 2.8% of a fully charged Model S) in 15 seconds at any one of 50 bus stops. At the depot, the bus is fully recharged for the beginning the next trip. The recharging technology using supercapacitors has been tested on buses in Geneva since 2013. The city is so confident about the system that it expects to launch a full bus line recharged by supercapacitors by spring 2018. That could create a template for cleaner public transit in the future.
The system being tested in Geneva allows city buses to take on enough of a charge during a routine stop to reach the next charging station. In theory, a system of charging stations based on supercapacitor technology could keep all electric vehicles in a given urban area charged and eliminate the need for fossil fuels. The more the local grid is powered by renewable energy sources, the better for urban air quality.
Is it possible that Elon Musk is thinking about using supercapacitor chargers to power the multi-passenger minibuses and heavy duty tractors he talks about in his Master Plan, Part Deux? The amount of stored energy needed to move an 80,000 lb load is so enormous, it seems unlikely Tesla can just cram a 1,000 kWh battery into a truck chassis and call it a day. But many freight hauling trucks do not travel for hour after hour on the highway. Instead, they may drive just a few miles from one location to another. Frequent small charging events would allow them to perform their tasks without using any fossil fuels.
Supercapacitors could be a solution to the problem of charging vehicles large and small very quickly, potentially with power from all renewable sources. ABB is leading the charge into fast-charging buses, but this could be just the beginning of how fast-charging technology develops in the transportation industry.
Source: Motley Fool Photo credit: ABB