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Ultracapacitor-based storage offering lead-acid alternative

Ultracapacitors are moving beyond the status of a component in a quest for new energy storage solutions and UCAP Power’s funding led by investment management company Grantchester C Change is a testament to this shift toward lead-acid battery alternatives in the electrification era.

UCAP Power, founded in 2019 by supercapacitor technology veterans in San Diego, California-based Maxwell Technologies, when the company was acquired by Tesla. Now, 18 months later, UCAP has announced to buy the Maxwell brand as well as Maxwell Technologies’ supercapacitor business in Korea that encompasses manufacturing capabilities and a patent portfolio.

Figure 1 Ultracapacitors being part of electronics integration boost design value and reduces overall system cost. Source: UCAP Power

As apparent from Tesla’s acquisition of Maxwell Technologies back in 2019, supercapacitors are ideally suited in vehicle electrification and renewable energy expansions for their ability to support very high bursts of power over extended cycle periods in scenarios that expose typical battery technologies to failure or safety issues. So, UCAP, which calls itself an ultracapacitor-based power solution provider, aims to offer a sustainable alternative to lead-acid batteries.

Its POWERBLoK battery replacement solution, which incorporates integrated charging and control to provide supercapacitor-based energy storage, has been deployed in wind turbines and transportation designs. Other markets that this long-life and safe battery replacement solution targets include storage systems for reserve power and microgrid environments.

Take wind turbines, for instance, where the replacement of four million lead-acid batteries in 40,000 wind turbines can eliminate 35 million pounds of virgin lead, and thus eliminate batteries in most starting applications and enable smaller, lighter systems with hybrid solutions. UCAP, also based in San Diego, aims to retrofit wind turbines, generators, microgrids, and transport systems with ultracapacitors.

Figure 2 Utilities are deploying ultracapacitor cells in smart meters to ensure immediate transmission of data and minimal field replacements. Source: UCAP Power

UCAP’s single-minded focus on ultracapacitor-based power solutions and its quest to provide a viable alternative to battery solutions make it an interesting company to watch. The company’s CEO, Gordon Schenk, believes that the ultracapacitor-based power solutions will amount to a $7 billion market annually by 2027.

Majeed Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief of EDN and Planet Analog, has covered the electronics design industry for more than two decades.

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