By Chad Hall
In 2003, Custom Electronics, Inc. (CEI), a manufacturer of high-voltage mica paper capacitors, was engaged in an effort to broaden its base and increase annual sales. Since its inception in 1964, CEI has manufactured high-quality capacitors for high-voltage applications. CEI successfully moved into the modular market by building power modules and other sub assemblies suited to customer needs. However, the continuing trend to use low voltage circuitry still limited growth. After examination of many possibilities, in 2007, CEI decided to create a subsidiary company that would manufacture ultracapacitors, which at that time were not well known and were used in only a small number of applications. However, CEI understood the potential of these devices in the energy storage market, and thus, Ioxus was born.
CEI created a subsidiary, called Ioxus, Inc. The company became operational in the summer of 2009 and is now capable of manufacturing a line of ultracapacitors and hybrid capacitors ranging in size from 100 F to 5,000 F. The company’s focus with regard to product development is through higher voltage units with enhanced energy density, and thus, smaller, lighter weight modules.
These systems are particularly useful as the resulting power pack boasts both high energy and power density. The configuration has the added advantage of extending the number of charge-discharge cycles that the battery pack can withstand before failure, due in large part to the ultracapacitors’ ability to provide high current under heavy load, allowing the batteries to operate well within their comfort zone.
Currently, ultracapacitors have about one tenth the energy density of lead acid batteries. Ultracapacitor manufacturers are actively engaged in research to increase the energy density of their products, with a goal of reaching the energy density of lead acid storage batteries, which would allow for the wholesale replacement of such components. Such a change would be extremely beneficial, as ultracapacitors do not suffer from the shortcomings of lead acid storage batteries, but rather are characterized by very rapid re-charge rates, re-charging in minutes, as opposed to hours. This high recharge rate gives ultracapacitors the ability to tolerate hundreds of thousands of charge/discharge cycles without failing (2) and with virtually no maintenance. While the goal of increasing the energy density of its capacitors to compete with lead acid storage batteries has not yet been achieved, it is one that appears to be well within the capabilities of ultracapacitor technology, and when achieved, will be revolutionary in the Electric Vehicle (EV) market.
The use of ultracapacitors with batteries is a natural pairing, producing a robust power source that lengthens the overall life of the battery pack and provides plenty of power under heavy load while reducing excess stress on batteries.
Additionally, ultracapacitors have other uses in renewable energy storage, including their ability to use harvested energy that would otherwise be lost. This technology can be illustrated by a regenerative braking system, which employs a motor-generator, set with a capacitor bank. As braking is required, the generator is driven, charging the capacitors and upon acceleration, the motor delivers assistance to the vehicle during acceleration. Ioxus has also developed a regenerative braking system designed specifically for mass transit applications that is currently under test that will use the same energy harvesting techniques.
Ioxus is the only company producing 100% of its ultracapacitors in the United States. The use of ultracapacitors with batteries as an integral part of any energy-harvesting device makes these components essential in any energy storage system. Ioxus is growing and positioning itself to be a major producer of energy storage devices and modules at competitive price points. The ability to compete in this market is twofold: the use of time-saving manufacturing techniques and the company’s ability to give customers added value through module design processes.
Ultracapacitors are becoming an increasingly important part of energy storage systems and Ioxus is – and will continue to be – a leader in the field of high-quality ultracapacitors and power modules.
1 The system can be easily reconfigured for use with higher voltages.
2 Lead acid storage batteries can tolerate many less charge-discharge cycles, typically on the order of one thousand.
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