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October 20th, 2009
Municipal transit agencies have tried to reduce the carbon footprint of their bus fleets using a range of options over the years, from biofuels and hydrogen to batteries and hybrid-electric diesel. Now a Chinese company and its U.S. partner say that ultracapacitors could offer the greenest and most economical way of powering inner-city buses.
There's just one catch: the best ultracapacitors can only store about 5 percent of the energy that lithium-ion batteries hold, limiting them to a couple of miles per charge. This makes them ineffective as an energy storage medium for passenger vehicles. But what ultracapacitors lack in range they make up in their ability to rapidly charge and discharge. So in vehicles that have to stop frequently and predictably as part of normal operation, energy storage based exclusively on ultracapacitors begins to make sense.
Sinautec Automobile Technologies, based in Arlington, VA, and its Chinese partner, Shanghai Aowei Technology Development Company, have spent the past three years demonstrating the approach with 17 forty-one seat municipal buses on the outskirts of Shanghai.
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