Grounded in Reality, Maxwell Technology’s CEO Dispels Static Around Ultracapacitors

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already has batteries. Electronics manufacturers understand how to design battery-powered products and automobile manufacturers understand how to design vehicles equipped with lead-acid batteries.

“If you bring a whole new energy device to market, engineers need to understand what it will do and how, and why it should be included in their products,” explained Michael Sund, a Maxwell spokesman.

Manufacturing costs, and the difficulties in increasing production volume, have probably been the biggest barrier to adoption that Maxwell has faced. In recent years, the company has moved its manufacturing operations to low-cost contractors in China. That has helped the company boost production. Maxwell’s ultracapacitor sales have jumped from $5 million in 2004 to a current production rate estimated at $30 million a year, although overall profitability for the company is still a problem.

After years of trying to gain acceptance among customers, Schramm says Maxwell is now selling its ultracapacitors for use in hybrid-electric buses made in the United States and in China, for windmill power-generators in Europe, cordless power tools, consumer electronics and as part of backup power supply systems that must provide uninterruptible power for computer chip makers and other key industries.

While the innovative materials under development at EnerG2 are promising, Schramm says the Seattle startup faces two critical challenges: How do you get the technology out of the laboratory, and how do you make it cost-effective? “Carbon nanomaterials are orders of magnitude more expensive than the carbon powders we work with,” Schramm says. “It’s hard for me to imagine them having manufacturing capacity with the capital they have raised.”

As for a proposed X Prize to create an ultra-capacitor, Schramm says it would be a breakthrough if someone developed a single energy storage device that combines the capability of a battery to generate sustained electrical energy with an ultracapacitor’s ability to rapidly charge and discharge electrical power.

“That’s where you run into the laws of physics,” Schramm says.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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3 responses to “Grounded in Reality, Maxwell Technology’s CEO Dispels Static Around Ultracapacitors”

  1. Sorry the article is so general. I wish you had specifically discussed barium titinate, which EESTOR uses. Sounds like a typical not-invented-here defensiveness.

  2. Krassen Dimitrov says:

    Mr. Blakeslee,
    if EESTOR can deliver at scale it will indeed be the game changer, considering that what they have demonstrated translates into effective volumetric energy density equaling that of gasoline. (essentially, an EESTOR capacitor could fuel a car the same distance as would a tank of gasoline with the same volume. The nominal energy density is five times lower, however, an EV is 5x more efficient than an ICE-based car. Also, even though the volumes will be similar, the barrium titenate capacitor will be 10x heavier, but that’s not so important)

    However, some of the points that the Maxwell’s CEO makes are valid. It is indeed a “lightning in a bottle”, as these capacitors have low surface area and the high energy density comes from the extremely high potential (~1500V). EESTOR better deliver a well developed discharge circuitry with their product or not many would dare design around something giving you 1500V.

    Best wishes,