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While speaking at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, CA last week, Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla, said he's willing to bet against batteries to be the technology that finally delivers the breakthrough that electric-drive vehicles need to become mainstream. Earth2Tech quotes Musk saying:
If I were to make a prediction, I'd think there's a good chance that it is not batteries. But capacitors.
Tesla's electric vehicles utilize lithium-ion batteries, which makes Musk's comment unexpected. But, Earth2Tech says, maybe Tesla is researching capacitors in its Palo Alto, CA. labs and points out that Musk originally came to California many moons ago to research advanced capacitors at Stanford University. While Musk says that he attended Stanford "for a laugh," he also claims that at some point, capacitors "will supercede" batteries. Who's going to be laughing when that happens?

[Source: Earth2Tech]


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  • 39 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I always thought electric cars would end up with a both capacitors and batteries

      the capacitor would allow a super quick charge and then the electricity in the capacitor would dissipate into the battery -
        • 4 Years Ago
        Any audiophile will tell you that this system is in place now with automotive sound systems, only in reverse. The battery charges a big capacitor so that the woofer can draw ultra-high loads for short, but intense, bass hits. I think the capacitor's place in the electric vehicle could be very important in re-gen braking scenarios and also useful for improved acceleration; essentially any high-load scenario (in or out), to act as a buffer for the battery and improve the efficiency of the system by not letting any energy go to waste because of friction braking or resistance from high battery discharge rates. It'd be something like a totally electronic KERS.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Totally agreed. Use the fundamental technology for what it's good for.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly - caps to capture regen braking and assist with initial acceleration, batteries for the rest.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Matt: You made the point exactly, with capacitors & sub-woofers. Capacitors delivers lots of power for a short period of time. Don't know much about the length of time it takes a capacitor to "recharge", but a capacitor bank between the battery and motor, might net you some sort of range gain.

        I've been kicking this around for about 4 months now, I guess there might be some merit to it. Not having enough money to develop ideas really sucks.

      • 4 Years Ago
      I want an EV, but I hate to think of cars being like phones/tablets/computers/TVs where whatever you buy this year is completely outdated in a year, and not even worth having in 5 years... unless it means that cars drop in price as much as computers did... I still remember when having a decent (150mhz pentium) computer meant paying $2000+

      If car prices were to drop that drastically, I wouldn't mind upgrading every few years
        • 4 Years Ago
        @McHoffa

        According to your logic, any car is obsolete the second you bought it.

        Every single car's features are fixed the day you bought it, there are no software upgrades.
        2012 version of your car might get twin turbo, 4WD, hybrid, diesel option, but you won't be getting those.
        • 4 Years Ago
        think about iphone product cycles... the 3g can't run all of the latest software... and it's only coming up on 3 years old... a PC from 5ish years ago can't run Windows 7.. a Mac from 5 years ago can't run Snow Leopard... so no, it's not completely useless, but it's at the end of its life... it can't be upgraded any more... those are $200-$1000 gadgets...

        imagine buying a car and in 4 years you can't upgrade the software any more, can't upgrade the batteries to the new more efficient batteries... that's a $25,000 gadget... right now, it's all new anyway, so the first batch will be good for a while, but tech will pick up pace like it does in every industry...

        like I said, the only good I can see is if it causes prices of cars to drop drastically like every other piece of tech does after adoption

        I'm a gadget junkie... I love the pace of technology... my wallet, on the other hand, doesn't
        • 4 Years Ago
        I think that if you can do a conversion yourself and go with what you can afford at this time to get you up and running. You will be able to upgrade your battery pack when the time comes, and you won't have to change your car.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I am so annoyed by the people who are bothered that their electroics are quote "obsolete" as soon as a new model comes out. OBSOLETE doesn't mean "anything that's not the newest, fastest, best, etc....". Whose dictionary says that?VCR's are obsolete. Record playes are obsolete.

        So either you complain that progress isn't fast enough or that progress is too fast? I would love my car to be obsolete like a record player or VCR in 5 years, that will mean lots and lots of people are working very hard and making products better that much faster.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The same way that today's $300 computer will destroy a $3000 computer of 5 years ago, an equivalent EV might cost $15,000 in the near future. Therefor making an investment into an expensive EV today, just to have it depreciate rapidly would be a huge loss.

        Anybody would be kicking themselves for not waiting if EVs progress as quickly as other electronics. This is what i think McHoffa worried about.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Really, though, it's the same thing with cars (the same as your comment about iPhone product cycles.) My 6-year-old car doesn't have direct injection, a complex trip computer, built-in nav or steering-wheel-mounted controls for audio or those nonexistent electronic gadgets. Subaru doesn't have an upgrade path to add those, either... they expect me to trade up if I want the new toys. They still provide replacement parts that are about the same as what was originally installed.

        Technology really does march on. At the time you were buying that 150 mhz Pentium (mid 1995) a Ferrari F355 made about 375 horsepower, and a Mustang GT put out about 215 hp. Today, the base V6 Mustang produces over 300 hp and gets 31 mpg on the highway, and a Mustang GT you can get for less than $30k puts out 412 hp.

        I can't just install current software into a '95 Mustang to make it perform like a new one, any more than you'd want to try to build on that 150 mhz Pentium from '95 to try to run Windows 7.
      harlanx6
      • 4 Years Ago
      I do believe that capacitors will equal or exceed existing battery capabilities, but I am not ready to concede that battery technologies won't improve also. The key isn't capability, but cost of manufacturing. This competition is beneficial, with whichever gives the most dependable range at the least cost will be own the market share. Just imagine, though, not having to ever buy a battery again. Capacitors live forever.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The guy got in EVs via Ultracapacitor research..... it's no surprise he's still a believer.

      The field of Ultra-batteries is gathering dust in Russian where they ran full sized buses using them. Perhaps these are the best compromise between batt and caps.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Adding ultracapacitors to existing automotive 12V electrical system has been done by Splitfire Japan: http://www.sigmaautomotive.com/splitfire/supershot.php
      • 4 Years Ago
      well, it's an interesting thought. I don't know enough physics to say what is possible but they would have to go fairly high in density to supplant batteries. not match them which they might never do but high enough that their longer life and presumed blitz charge capability makes them more interesting.
      let's say practical batteries get above 500Wh/kg which would allow very light weight construction of an EV with decent range. how much lower can it be and still interesting for the rapid charge... I'd say it need to get above 100Wh/kg at least and likely higher still.

      150km capacitor pack vs 900km range of same size battery pack... does a 1 minute charge make the 150km range more appealing.. I'd say no.

      at 200 or 300Wh/kg then capacitors might be irresistable. assuming they still have blitz charge capability and infinite life.

      let's see them go above their current 6Wh/kg first. batteries are touching 350Wh/kg already. bit of a head start.
        • 4 Years Ago
        seems somewhat familiar but I don't really count lab work among actual products.
        if someone has made a complete product out of it that has actual specs and actual demonstration of use then I consider it real.
        graphene is a sheet of material 1 atom thick. might have some teething problems associated with that
        • 4 Years Ago
        Haven't you been aware of this?

        http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl102661q
      • 4 Years Ago
      It's kind of funny - gas/diesel won over other propulsion methods due to, in part, incredible energy densities and practical implementation.

      Liquid-based battery tech is winning out, from lead-acid in the beginning to Li-ion, due to superior energy densities and practical implementation (the 300-mile Model S isn't using caps).

      There's a lot of potential energy that can be "stored" as a compound, which is then released through a chemical reaction (battery discharge, internal combustion, etc).

      I wonder how much better caps can get - storage by means of maintaining a charge across a little space has quantum physical limitations. Should be interesting, regardless.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Once the automakers have invested in lithium-ion technology and suppliers, they will be resistant to change to another technology even if it is superior.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All it takes is one automaker to decide "we want to use the better technology" and the rest will follow.
        • 4 Years Ago
        When/if capacitors exceed battery in energy density it will be the battery suppliers that change tech. Carmakers need to adjust accordingly. Batteries and capacitors are researched by same companies.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I believe in the power of Jesus. His power is like that. Stored energy called Love. Son power! Ultra capacitors? You are the capacitor God wants to fill. Get interested in the Spirit! God's Words are Spirit and they are life! That's where you find real power to assist your life just like steering power assist did when I was a teen. We really had a time of it turning that 57 Chevy steering wheel till the assist steering appeared! God wants to enter & assist your life? What is God? God is Love and He is also called a Spirit or energy & power, very electrical in nature.

      --Enough to turn you on! You're the vehicle He wants to inspire and help others through! For constant solutions plug into Activated.org
      See Issue guide's link & get inspired!

      eric in europe
        • 4 Years Ago
        Are you trying to take Gorr's place as Chief resident nutter? If so, you're doing a very good job!
      • 4 Years Ago
      If I were Musk, producing a car which takes a long time to charge with existing technologies, I'd be hoping for a white knight to fix that problem too. But caps aren't anywhere near able to store enough energy just yet. So using caps as primary storage in an EV just isn't feasible right now and doesn't appear it will become so soon.
      • 4 Years Ago
      There is no theoretical reason why batteries should not charge almost as quickly as capacitors.

      See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110320164225.htm for example.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Check out nottoosmart's comment on the first page of comments - it's a new electrode structure that allows effective charging to increase many many times that of current cell designs.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Others disagree.

      http://green.autoblog.com/2010/12/07/toyota-prototypes-4-layer-solid-state-battery/

      In fairness, most electric-auto manufacturers have, at some point, claimed to be "battery agnostic", i.e. not devoted to any one chemistry, or even batteries to obtain electricity. It's easy to imagine a mix of batteries and ultra-caps in the future.
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