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Will Supercapacitors Give Lithium-Ion Batteries a Run for Your Money?

June 27, 2014
Supercapacitors are improving faster than lithium-ion batteries in most respects, says a new report.

The global market value for supercapacitors will be $6.5 billion by 2024, according to “Electrochemical Double Layer Capacitors: Supercapacitors 2014-2024,” a report from market research company IDTechEx.

Although Elon Musk of Tesla is planning “the mother of all lithium-ion battery factories,” the report states that it is probable that supercapacitors will outperform lithium-ion battery sales. Nanotune Technologies’ CEO Kuang Tsei Huang demonstrated supercapacitors with 35 Wh/kg, saying that 500 Wh/kg may be achievable (two to four times the energy density of the best Li-ion batteries).

Yunasko and others have demonstrated 35 Wh/kg, with the intermediate supercabatteries, matching lead-acid and NiCd batteries. Maxwell Technologies expects tripling current energy density with pure supercapacitors. Graphene supercapacitor developers target 200 Wh/kg.

"Supercapacitors need not match lithium-ion battery energy density to replace much of that battery market,” said Dr. Peter Harrop, chairman of IDTechEx. “They have replaced maybe one percent of that market already with only one hundredth of the energy density because they last longer than the bus for example that they are in. They are safer and have ten times the power density. Even across batteries they mean less battery is needed.”

Harrop predicts supercapacitor sales will be over 10% of Li-ion sales in ten years, despite such batteries improving by a factor of two in energy density. For that, production supercapacitors or supercabatteries (notably lithium-ion capacitors) must reach around 40 Wh/kg with all other parameters acceptable, possibly even conceding some power density and life but being greener.

“If that happens, few will dispute that in the next decade at around 100 Wh/kg with other acceptable parameters, supercapacitors or supercabatteries could grab 50% of the lithium-ion market reaching tens of billions of dollars in yearly sales.”


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