Alternative Energy

Solar bodywork supercapacitor is dream for EVs

2nd November 2020
Alex Lynn

IDTechEx report, ‘Solar Vehicles 2021-2041’ notes that cars with solar bodywork have long-range. Tough sell. Even longer range is being achieved by those crudely shoving in an enormous battery. The real significance is that Lightyear and Sono Motors cars with solar bodywork achieve range with half the battery and, for the gentle, never suffer a charging point.

By Dr Peter Harrop, Chairman of IDTechEx

Consequently, solar adds space, reduces fire risk, reduces end-of-life disposal misery. Hyundai is committed. Toyota researches solar making three times the electricity.

For cars and for the robot shuttles that will replace them in some cities, supercapacitors will multiply these solar delights, being fast enough to compensate passing shadows, for example. Already, they propel factory automatic guided vehicles, easily charged frequently in seconds, where reliability and fit-and-forget gives payback. Explore the IDTechEx report, ‘Supercapacitor Markets, Technology Roadmap, Opportunities 2021-2041’. Latest supercapacitors escape battery safety and disposal issues. They waste 1% of electricity not 15% for batteries.

As ‘AGVs for humans’, robot shuttles trialing in 20 countries have billions of dollars of investment analyzed in the IDTechEx report, ‘Robot Shuttles and Autonomous Buses 2020-2040’. Symmetrical, so no U-turns, gated to go relatively slowly, space-efficient, they will enter malls, cross piazzas, use paths because they safely empower the disabled and the young.

Shuttles are not yet viable with supercapacitors despite deep discharge meaning less kWh needed, somewhat offsetting their larger size, and despite effectively infinite cycle life. Three steps get there - robotic fast charging like AGVs, solar bodywork meaning even less energy storage and the newly-selling 100Wh/kg supercapacitors - up ten times. Enjoy trouble-free, 30-year robot shuttles, city cars, city buses with rock bottom cost of ownership?

Contrast most electric cars. They sell on up-front-price and range but consider the experimental French supercapacitor-dominant shuttle that also has a battery. Appraise the many supercapacitor researchers demonstrating even greater Wh/kg in IDTechEx report, ‘Supercapacitor Materials and Formats 2020-2040’, which has a roadmap.

Meanwhile, companies such as Lightyear selling solar bodywork capability could usefully offer leverage with supercapacitors long before the demonstrated supercapacitor car bodies become commercial and later integrated with solar bodywork.

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