Power trends: Big plans for ultracapacitors: Page 3 of 5

June 09, 2017 //By Nick Flaherty
Taavi Madiberk, CEO of Skeleton Technologies
Taavi Madiberk doesn’t like the phrase unicorn. But as the CEO of rapidly expanding Estonian ultracapacitor company Skeleton Technology, he is ambitiously aiming at over $1bn in revenues.

“But clearly our main market is automotive with hybrids with 48V systems,” he said. “If you look at analysts reports by 2025 then 25 to 50% of all new vehicles will have a 48V hybrid system and ultracapacitors have a key role to play. If you take the same size ultracapacitor and Li Ion battery while the ultracapacitor energy capacity at start of its life is lower, because of the longer lifetime you get 22 times the energy out over the lifetime. And that power is available in 1 to 2 s – we are quite excited about this opportunity,” he said.

“48V in mass production will not be possible without ultracapacitors,” he said. “So we are not competing against other ultracapacitor suppliers but lithium ion batteries, but this is not the enemy as the combination of the ultracapacitor and li ion battery means you can increase the lifetime of the battery pack by 50%, give 20% more range or downsize the battery.  In the long term, 10 years from now, this will be the dominant technology for car, buses or trucks,” he said.

The Sainsbury deal in the UK is a demonstration of this. Skeleton has retrofitted the supermarket delivery vans with a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) based on its ultracapacitor and software developed in-house. “We purchased the motor and inverter and developed the software for the KERS ECU,” said Madiberk. “A key part of the development was software and software integration, how to integrate that with the power electronics and power systems and that provides 25 to 30% fuel savings in urban delivery.

“We have two options – the KERS system always requires modification of the vehicle, while our engine start module is a drop in replacement or add in pack that allows you to get the vehicle started for dead vehicles or in -40 ˚C temperatures.

Volvo service centres are selling that to fleet owners and customers today, he says. “Almost 60% of roadside assistance issues come from dead batteries and with our ultracapacitor you can harness the remaining energy in the ultracapacitor and get the vehicle started. This is also an issue in hot countries where the power is used for air conditioning and charging laptops for example,” he said.

The challenge is moving from a component supplier to a system supplier, especially in the automotive market. “When it comes to passenger vehicles we do not plan to act as a tier one supplier,” he said. “For the bus and truck industry where we position ourselves as tier one and a half – we can do our own systems but are also open to working with tier ones.”

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