Yes, one day, you too may be able to fully recharge your plug-in vehicle's battery in the amount of time it takes to decelerate down one of those runaway truck ramps. Assuming your brakes actually work, of course.

Engineers at South Korea's Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology are researching the concept of graphene supercapacitors and how they can be applied to plug-in vehicle technology, Technology Review says. A simplified explanation is that the engineers have created an extremely porous version of graphene, turned it into a powder (which makes its surface area larger) and packed the powder into a cell.

The fun part is that the new graphene electrode was tested to provide almost as much charge as a fully recharged lithium-ion battery, with the amazing benefit of only needing about 16 seconds to recharge, raising interesting possibilities for applying the technology to a regenerative braking system. And the electrode was tested 10,000 times and didn't suffer capacity reduction. Cornell University published a version of the study here.

The idea of using graphene, a crystalline form of carbon, for automotive technology, is continuously being researched. Earlier this year, researchers from South Korea, Case Western University and University of North Texas said they discovered that a graphene-coated cathode may generate a greater battery current than a cathode covered with the more expensive but more traditional platinum. And in 2011, University of Technology Sydney researchers created a type of graphene "paper" that is stronger, lighter and less dense than steel. Such widespread use would enable automakers to cut vehicle weight and boost fuel efficiency as a result.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 28 Comments
      Dave D
      • 1 Year Ago
      Has anyone else noticed the curve on capacitors is nearly on a Moore's Law scale? Not something we talk about, but I remember when a capacitor weighing a gram would get you a half microFarrad. Now we have 150 Farrads/gram. What if 6-7 years from now we have the equivalent of ~500Wh/kg capacitors that can recharge in seconds rather than 10-20 minutes? Do people really care as much about range if you can top it off in less time than it takes to fill up your gas tank? We might be one big capacitor breakthrough away from making batteries an interesting footnote in history???
        DaveMart
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dave D
        If the price is right on these I would see interesting applications in buses using inductive charging. They could soak up a lot of power at stops, and weight is not quite as critical in buses, hence they often use lithium titanate at the moment. As for progress, maybe. I was just looking at their claimed energy densities of 64kwh/kg. Plainly if they up that significantly it is a different ball game.
        danfred411
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Dave D
        I like the thinking Dave :) You might be sensing that physics can do fantastic things if refined just right. But supercaps are all still messing around at 5Wh/kg. Long way up to 500. Normally these articles about battery breakthroughs are bs but the interesting thing about graphene is that this super extreme structure can apparently actually be manufactured.. So if it's great in a battery then it's not inconceivable it could be a real product. If someone actually does it. And maybe allow 2 minute recharge times. Which we can actually also do today but who's counting.. I've said it before, it's not really the technology that is holding things back. It is the stupidity of man. I mean you can recharge A123 cells 40% in 6 minutes. Completely stock technology. 7 years old. And they have formula1 cells which can recharge many times faster. Recharge speed is as far as I know just a mass tradeoff. I imagine A123 could formulate a cell with 100Wh/kg that could recharge 80% in 2 minutes and wouldn't cost much more than now. That should be plenty fast enough. But man is stupid.
          Dave D
          • 1 Year Ago
          @danfred411
          LOL I just read down a little lower and saw the post by James Howard talking about a 3-way hybrid battery pack. So yeah...I'd like to see something along those lines.
          Dave D
          • 1 Year Ago
          @danfred411
          Hey Dan, How's it going? Yeah, I've seen some cells that were between 11-15Wh/kg that they were playing with over at Ga Tech, but they're too expensive to produce at this point. I'm hoping that one of these supercap "breakthroughs" is real...but as you say, we'll see. Yeah, for me, I'd be perfectly happy with a 100-125 mile real world range, especially if I could pull in somewhere and top off in 2-3 minutes. I know that the batteries A123 made for F1 could handle 20kW/kg so they could easily top off that quickly. They'd just need to get the price way down through mass production. I think they could also provide a "hybrid pack" where they would only need 150Wh of supercaps to handle all the regen braking and acceleration so that would take a big bite out of the cycles the batteries went through in city driving and extend the life of the battery pack as well. I saw some research that one spinoff company (from MIT??? Can't remember now) was doing would standardize this type of battery pack and it's electronics to drive the price down.
          EZEE2
          • 1 Year Ago
          @danfred411
          Hey Cool! Read Dan's post. At least 1/2 of it is happy and optimistic! If Dan can be happy, so can you! Hey Dan!
      • 1 Year Ago
      I think someone should be looking into the feasibility of a three-battery power source for EVs now. Li-ion as the primary battery, graphene capacitors for their super quick regen during braking, and zinc-air batteries that rarely discharge and are only used to extend the li-ion range (mitigating their longevity issues).
        Grendal
        • 1 Year Ago
        I really like your reasoning. I've always thought that using a combination of batteries and supercapacitors would be beneficial in the long run. It allows you to utilize the strengths of each to maximum advantage.
        EZEE2
        • 1 Year Ago
        Rocket Scientist and Electrical Engineer Here... The combo thing is a real idea, and adding the third stage will add some complexity (that should be addressed by controllers and such), but is a good idea. That has been the problem with hybrids, plug in hybrids, and full EV's. How does one have super fast charge (such as on regen brakes) and slow discharge? Hence, the battery in a plug in part of a hybrid is different than the one regular pack. And why trunk space suffers on some cars. The actual application is fiendishly complex when looking at cost, range, power transfer, heat, blah blah blah, but in concept, it sounds really, really good.
        Naturenut99
        • 1 Year Ago
        The idea of combining super caps with battery packs have been around for many years. Just no one has done it yet. Super caps could be perfect for regen storage. But I'm not sold on zinc-air as a backup battery. For those who only need a short(er) range EV, we are essentially there. But with improvements coming, even long range is on its way. Well, for more than just Tesla. Super caps should be an improvement, once they get around to adding them. I heard they were thinking of adding them 10 years ago and they still haven't done it.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Naturenut99
          Capacitors and batteries have been combined, just not in full battery electric cars. Wind turbines use the two in conjunction to manage spikes in output, and Peugeot uses them for their stop start system: http://www.peugeot.com.au/media/deliacms/media/19/1935-4fbb65.pdf
      BraveLil'Toaster
      • 1 Year Ago
      Not mentioned here: The inherent problem with (super/ultra/mega)capacitors, which is that you can't store the energy for very long. A few hours, at most. So unless you're okay with applying your bajillion-volt quickcharger every time you go for a drive, this is highly impractical. Also not mentioned: whether or not that new graphene paper is as cheap as steel. We already have lots of "lighter, stronger, less dense" materials than steel, but they're all several times the cost. And as we've noticed before, consumers are pretty cost-sensitive when it comes to cars: http://www.autoblog.com/2013/12/01/study-electric-vehicles-too-expensive/
        El Cid
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BraveLil'Toaster
        The graphene used here is in a cheap and easily manufactured form. Perfect monolayer graphene sheets are required in certain applications -- say, designing replacements for integrated circuits using only/primarily graphene -- but here it's largely in the form made from graphite. Yes, the form of graphene used for experiments in battery/supercapacitor as well as fuel cells & catalysts is often produced as simply as shaking up a can of graphite with steel balls (separating the graphite into nanoplatelet layers) or using ultrasonic vibrations projected into a solution with graphite. And if it seems impossible that something so useful and different could be obtained so simply and cheaply, remember that we only recently knew to look for these properties. It's harder to find something if you didn't know you should look. This is not about graphene per se -- it's about our familiarity with how materials operate at the tiniest levels, at the very atomic surfaces, so that we're beginning to take advantage of other options. And so far many of these new (and often but not always graphene-based) super/ultracapacitors store energy for as long as or as nearly as long as batteries. Be cautious in how reflexive your responses are to new information based on older situations and contexts. Sometimes things stay the same, but sometimes things really do change.
        Dave
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BraveLil'Toaster
        "The inherent problem with (super/ultra/mega)capacitors, which is that you can't store the energy for very long." They may be questionable for use in BEVs, but they could be very useful in hybrids (including fuel cell hybrids), since they are only used to capture regenerative braking energy and to assist with short term bursts of acceleration.
        • 1 Year Ago
        @BraveLil'Toaster
        "The inherent problem with (super/ultra/mega)capacitors, which is that you can't store the energy for very long." This is incorrect Yes, they can hold their charges for long periods of time "and it even holds 90% of its charge after 300 hours." Source and Research paper [Link] http://www.extremetech.com/computing/163071-graphene-supercapacitors-created-with-traditional-paper-making-process-rivals-lead-acid-battery-capacity
      RC
      • 1 Year Ago
      Funny enough South Korea already got induction bus lanes. Perhaps this study is part of that National electrification effort.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      From the linked source: 'They say it has a specific capacitance of over 150 Farrads per gram can store energy at a density of more than 64 watt-hours per kilogram at a current density of 5 amps per gram. That’s almost comparable with lithium-ion batteries, which have an energy density of between 100 and 200 watt-hours per kilogram.' Let's hope people driving these capacitor cars don't want to go very far.
        Exooc news
        • 1 Year Ago
        @DaveMart
        see it more as turbo.... recuperation energy with these supercapacitors will be much more effeciently stored at higher rates .... then you will be able to press power boost button which would give you 10sec or more 100hp more power.... and more fun;) there is toyota i think concept car with similar behavior
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Exooc news
          Or at High power charging stations (i.e. Superchargers) to buffer energy storage from the grid and/or solar array.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Exooc news
          Yep, something which will be handy to use in an EV, rather than replacing the battery.
          Joeviocoe
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Exooc news
          No, not gonna replace Li-Ion.... YET (dun, dun, duuhuhhuuhnnnn). But Li-Ion progress is ongoing at its own steady pace. Prices coming down, density going up. Charging getting faster. We're getting 135KW Superchargers soon and already have 120KW.
          DaveMart
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Exooc news
          Loads of uses for them, just not to replace the lithium batteries in EVs.
      Thunderbuck
      • 1 Year Ago
      Just the same way we have multiple forms of data storage in a single computer (cache, RAM, HDD, and even a couple of others), I can envision a car that has multiple "caches" for electricity. These graphene batteries will likely be outrageously expensive, and may not be appropriate for a car's entire supply. Because of the speed they can charge, though, they may make for great "transitional" storage by taking a massive charge from the motors (maybe replacing friction brakes entirely?) and shuttling it off to larger-capacity (but "slower") storage. It might not even be the first line of "cache" after the motors; maybe the array attached directly to the motors would be supercapacitors, then these graphene batteries, THEN the main battery...
        Thunderbuck
        • 1 Year Ago
        @Thunderbuck
        Oops... was seeing this as a battery electrode technology, not a new supercap configuration.
          CoolWaters
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Thunderbuck
          A supercapacitor to take quick brake energy could act the same way as a cache.
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      S/be 64Wh/kg, although 64kwh/kg would be neat! :-)
      DaveMart
      • 1 Year Ago
      Presumably the engineers at Hyundai developing their fuel cell cars will be watching this, as: 'An evaluation of different fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle (FCHEV) powertrain designs—such as fuel cell/supercapacitor (FC/SC), fuel cell/battery (FC/B), and a combination of supercapacitors and batteries (FC/SC/B)—and different control strategies by researchers in Belgium concluded that the FC/SC HEV has slightly higher fuel economy than the FC/B HEV and FC/B/SC HEV powertrains. ' http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/12/20131202-fchev.html That sounds a bit too heavy a focus on one metric, fuel economy, to me, as cost is likely to be far more important than some marginal gain in fuel economy, but using these capacitors for transient load in FCEVs is a pretty neat idea.
      Marcopolo
      • 1 Year Ago
      Amazing stuff graphene, and we've only just started to explore it's potential. The search for alternate energy needs an equal ability to quickly store and distribute energy in a practical and economic manner. The creation of really versatile ESD's is the next big hurdle to overcome, if alternate energy and alternate energy applications, such as electric vehicles, are to become prevalent. So good luck to the guys at Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, and all other researcher into this new frontier of scientific discovery.
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