European Automakers Begin to Adopt Maxwell’s Ultracapacitor Technology

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develop its ultracapacitor business. As Schramm noted, the $68.5 million in ultracapacitor sales that Maxwell reported in 2010 was larger than the $53.7 million in total revenue that Maxwell reported in 2006. Much of those gains can be attributed to increased ultracapacitor sales in two key markets: wind turbines and automobiles.

Ultracapacitors are being used inside the hub of large-scale wind turbines to adjust the trim of turbine blades if wind gusts exceed the turbine’s operating parameters. Too much wind can damage the windmills, so adjusting the blades enables the turbine to spill excess wind—like luffing the sail of a sailboat. Schramm says Maxwell ultracapacitors are now operating in about 14,000 wind turbines, mostly in Asia and Europe.

In October, Maxwell also began delivering commercial-scale quantities of its ultracapacitors to Continental AG, which Schramm described as “a $30 billion, Tier 1 automotive components supplier in Europe,” comparable to Delco in the U.S. Continental is providing Maxwell’s ultracapacitors to PSA Peugeot Citroen of France for use in “stop-start idle-elimination” technology in two diesel-powered automobiles. The combined battery-ultracapacitor technology basically turns the motor off when a vehicle is stopped and restarts it as motorists accelerate.

Schramm says the technology can lead to a 15 percent improvement in urban-driving fuel economy, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions to comply with European Union mandates for pollution controls.

Schramm also describes the PSA Peugeot Citroen deal as a breakthrough for Maxwell, which has had little success in persuading U.S. automakers to adopt its ultracapacitor technology. When asked why the auto industry has been so slow to take up ultracapacitors, Schramm said, “It takes time because you’re putting new technology into very complex systems.”

But now that Continental AG has adopted the technology, Schramm says, “We fully expect to have more start-stop systems announced in the next year.”

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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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