Energy storage is one of the biggest challenges facing a number of technologies from the Internet of Things to renewable energy to electric cars. Although batteries are making slow and steady progress, challenges with parameters such as energy density, rate of charge, temperature, safety and life cycle have, in turn, slowed down the progress of end-applications. The answer to how to jump-start progress in energy storage may reside in a 250+ year old electronic component.
The idea of using a capacitor as a store of energy has been well-known for years and, in recent years, their have been practical implementations of so-called super capacitor technology to a variety of sectors from industrial (e.g. providing a boost of energy for peak needs), to consumer (replacing a battery in a remote control). Still, challenges slowing the implementation of super capacitors as a general battery replacement include; being able to discharge them slowly, stability in high voltage use-cases and achieving an energy density per kilogram that allows a desired form factor.
KiloWatt Labs CEO Omer Ghani explains in the above interview, filmed at the IDTechEX Show!, that his company has overcome these challenges and has begun shipping large-scale, super capacitor-based energy storage solutions for applications such as microgrid, renewable, utility and mobility. He indicates their solution is a cost-competitive replacement for traditional battery approaches,
“We now have a product that is true alternative without the difficulties and limitations of chemical-based batteries.”
As part of its utility solution, KiloWatt Labs has a server that balances different energy inputs along with the storage capability to optimize efficiency. Telecom is another application for their technology, as the million cycle life specification means no maintenance and a lifetime that is orders of magnitude longer than the underlying telecom network.
Battery replacement in electric vehicles is another area that is ripe for disruption. Ghani points out that the challenge for battery technology is the recharge time (e.g 30 minutes for 80% charge). He says it takes 30 seconds to recharge their super capacitor. With a 30 second recharge time, range is no longer an issue. By being able to adapt to different form factors, the adaptation to existing electric cars should not require massive changes by the automakers.
Of course, there will need to be massive storage devices to enable the kind of current flow required for a fast-charge; storage devices that would be super capacitors. So, instead of having underground fuel tanks, the service station of tomorrow might have underground super capacitors.