After a couple of years of stagnation, the supercapacitor industry is showing renewed signs of market penetration, mostly in the automotive sector with the adoption of start-stop supercapacitor technology in the US by General Motors and Mercedes. Supercapacitors are also becoming the dominant technology in large wind turbine pitch control applications, and the global uptake of wind renewable energy will favour the growth of supercapacitor technology. As a matter of fact, the grid market which includes wind turbines, grid energy storage and rail wayside offers opportunities for growth for all players. At the same time, many new applications are opening up with the lower-end electrical engineering applications at 1-400 Farad being a new focus.
Chinese supercapacitor manufacturers are emerging and potentially displacing western companies domestically in the following years. The supercapacitor market in China for non-Chinese companies is now highly uncertain and they look to diversify out of the Chinese electric bus market and into emerging segments such as grid. China has recently reversed its policy on traditional hybrid vehicles, declaring that in 2030, 30% of cars made would be hybrids that do not plug in. The railway regeneration business in China generated the world's largest supercapacitor order in 2015 and it is expanding geographically there.
Lithium titanate batteries are the main competitor of supercapacitor technologies, first in automotive and recently in energy harvesting for IoT applications. Hybrid Li-ion capacitors also have the possibility to capture market value in areas where high power is still paramount, but some extra capacity is desired too.
Within this framework, IDTechEx has produced an excellent market report on supercapacitor technologies and markets. The first part gives an overview of the supercapacitor market, based on company visits in Europe, Japan, and the US, as well as conversations with companies exhibiting at the main energy storage events around the world. A summary of the supercapacitor value chain and cost structure complements the initial market overview. The subject is further examined by giving a list of examples of emerging markets where supercapacitors can make a difference, such as industrial vehicles and airborne wind energy.
Subsequently, the report contains a detailed analysis of the operating principle of both capacitors, supercapacitors, and lithium-ion capacitors, with an explanation of the nuances and differences in those three energy storage technologies. The potential of graphene and carbon nanotubes (CNT) in supercapacitors is evaluated, together with examples from the industry where those two carbon-based materials are used. The electrolyte market, which is subjected to regulation and disruption, is also analysed, with a breakdown of electrolyte choice by supercap manufacturer.
Finally, the markets where supercapacitors can be used are analysed one by one, from transportation, to wireless sensor networks, to stationary storage, to renewables integration, railway, consumer electronics, industrial vehicles, and much more.
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