Instead of storing charge in a main battery—then doling it out to individual devices on demand—a new breed of hybrid capacitor/battery is storing just enough energy for an adjacent device for its exclusive use. Ioxus Inc., (Oneonta, N.Y.) says it is solving the "battery problem" by defining a new distributed-energy architecture.
"We have people using our hybrid ultra-capacitors for all types of applications that were challenging for traditional battery architectures," said Ioxus co-founder and Vice President Chad Hall. "When you need short-term or back-up power, we provide a device that satisfies those needs without all problems associated with traditional batteries."
Applications for the technology range from simple to complex. For instance, a simple flashlight using a hybrid ultra-capacitor can be charged in just 20 seconds, then used for up to two hours, according to Hall. And a complex regenerative braking system on an automobile can instead use a hybrid ultra-capacitor that charges every time you brake and stop, then simply restarts the car when you hit the gas--eliminating all the pollution caused by stop-and-start traffic, he said.
Automotive applications allow hybrid capacitors to be economically distributed around a vehicle, storing short-term energy where it is needed for powering LEDs, on-board computers, power windows, power door-locks and security systems. And in the event of a total failure—or even removal—of the main car battery, all hybrid ultra-capacitor powered systems will still work. Plus Ioxus estimates that electric vehicles making use of distributed hybrid ultra-capacitors rather than relying solely on a centralized battery can cut 20-to-30 pounds off their weight.
A handful of other makers claim to have similar hybrid ultra-capacitors to Ioxus', but none has duplicated its unique combination of features. For instance, Evans Capacitor Co., (East Providence, R.I.) has a higher-voltage lower-energy hybrid capacitor that is more akin to an ultra-capacitor alone than Ioxus' hybrid ultra-capacitors. And JM Energy Corp. (Yamanashi, Japan) has a "lithium-ion capacitor" that is more akin to