A new report says that graphene, a pure carbon material, could "radically improve" batteries and supercapacitors used in electric vehicles, including forklifts.
The new IDTechEx report, 'Functional Materials for Supercapacitors/Ultracapacitors/EDLC 2015-2025', says that hybrid and electric vehicles increasingly rely on lithium-ion traction batteries to escape the "tyranny of pollution and poor performance from lead-acid batteries".
"Supercapacitors increasingly replace some of these batteries, wholly in hybrids and they have many other uses in electric vehicles. In pure electric vehicles, they partly replace some traction batteries by being put across the battery, so less battery is needed and it is protected so it lasts longer.
"Those trends will speed up if the energy density and cost of the supercapacitors can be improved. Indeed, supercapacitors open the electric bus doors in an emergency and are back-up for the regenerative braking on the Toyota Prius, the bestselling hybrid car in the world.
"The inverter/motor controller in an electric vehicle takes significant space and weight and dealing with that could involve supercapacitors replacing large aluminium electrolytic capacitors."
The report then goes on to say that graphene electrodes are one of the best prospects for enabling supercapacitors and supercabatteries to take up to half of the lithium-ion battery market in 15 years - amounting to tens of billions of dollars yearly.
"Such supercapacitors would be safer, (have) lower cost of ownership and (be) far better in performance.
'Graphene may also be key to supercapacitors taking much of the multibillion-dollar aluminium electrolytic capacitor business. That would make supercapacitors and supercabatteries (notably in the form of lithium-ion capacitors) one of the largest applications for graphene."
IDTechEx says there are challenges and it does not expect major production within 10 years. "As with batteries, what happens in the laboratory is not what emerges in production with good yields and all parameters acceptable including cost and life ... Graphene is expensive when good purity and structural integrity are required."
Commenting on the report, Jungheinrich spokesman Jan Kaulfuhs-Berger says that from the forklift manufacturer's point of view, it is good that companies are discussing alternative drive systems and energy concepts.
"The future will show which alternative will win at the end of the day. Anyway, Jungheinrich is convinced that the lithium-ion-technology is (at least) one step ahead in this matter. Jungheinrich (unveiled) its pedestrian truck EJE 112i (lithium-ion forklift) at CeMAT 2011, in Hannover, Germany.
"This year, we showed the latest innovations and product refinements in lithium-ion technology to an international audience at CeMAT 2014 (Forkliftaction.com News #667)
- including a facelift of the world's first mass-produced EJE 112i as well as new lithium-ion batteries with capacities up to 330 Ah. Jungheinrich will consequently follow this path."