Ultracapacitors meet mild hybrids

  • 31-Mar-2008 05:48 EDT
ValeoMaxwell 1 copy.jpg
Valeo and Maxwell Technologies are working toward the introduction of supercapacitor-based starter-alternator systems for mild hybrid applications.

Valeo and Maxwell Technologies are slated to collaborate on the development of a new stop-start and regenerative-braking system with the emphasis on cost effectiveness. The aim is to create a system using ultracapacitors instead of nickel metal-hydride (NiMH) or lithium-ion batteries, achieving very significant cost savings but still achieving much of the benefit of a conventional mild hybrid application.

The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that involves the incorporation of Maxwell’s BOOSTCAP ultracapacitors in Valeo’s next-generation StARS+X system.

The new 14+X architecture StARS (starter-alternator reversible system) comprises a reversible starter-alternator, a multi-cell ultracapacitor energy-storage module, and other power and control electronics in a 14-V architecture. The system is applicable to standard gasoline and diesel engines. Valeo estimates that the system can reduce fuel consumption and associated emissions by about 12% in normal operation, and by more than 20% in stop-and-go urban traffic.

Valeo’s first-generation StARS provided start-stop technology but did not include a dedicated energy-storage component. The 14+X architecture incorporates enhanced electronics and an ultracapacitor energy-storage module that allows it to capture and store energy from braking. Recovered energy is then available to power peak electrical loads such as deicing and rapid cabin and seat heating and cooling, avoiding increased fuel consumption for such functions.

“Because its energy storage employs high-efficiency, low-cost, ultracapacitor technology rather than costly nickel metal-hydride or lithium-ion batteries, StARS 14+X can deliver 80% of the benefit of a mild hybrid system at 20% of the cost,” said Daniel Richard, Director, R&D Valeo Electrical Systems. “Tax incentives and free access to high-occupancy vehicle lanes have helped to stimulate demand for current premium-priced hybrid cars as niche products, but we believe that mass adoption of low-emission vehicles and much greater benefits in reduced CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions will be driven by the availability of more cost-effective hybrid architectures.”

Richard said that the flexible 14+X system could be adapted for integration with a wide variety of existing automotive platforms and applied to any new fuel technology, including flex fuel: “It will make time-to-market for new models incorporating it much shorter than more-radical hybrid approaches.”

Valeo and Maxwell Technologies’ MOU also covers terms of a proposed multi-year development and supply agreement through which Valeo will source ultracapacitors from Maxwell.

“This design win is the result of an extensive collaborative development effort, and it reflects the progress Maxwell has made in developing and manufacturing products that meet the very demanding performance requirements of the auto industry,” said David Schramm, Maxwell’s President and CEO.

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