GM first US automotive OEM to use supercapacitors for start-stop

The 2016 Cadillac CTS-V Super-Sedan - image courtesy of Cadillac

General Motors has become the first US automotive original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to adopt supercapacitors (aka ultracapacitors) as part of a start-stop system.

GM will implement a start-stop system featuring supercapacitors produced by Maxwell Technologies, a manufacturer of supercapacitor-based energy storage and power delivery products, in its new range of Cadillacs.

The Continental Automotive Systems voltage stabilization system (VSS) produced by Maxwell and Continental AG will be a standard feature on 2016 Cadillac ATS and CTS sedans and ATS coupes.

General Motors is the first North American OEM to integrate the Continental supercapacitor-based voltage stabilization as part of the enhanced start-stop system.

Benefits of supercapacitors

The main advantage of using supercapacitors instead of batteries to power such a system is that they can deliver their electric currents very quickly – restarting an engine within 400 milliseconds, which is twice as fast as a conventional system.

Batteries in comparison typically store more energy but discharge more slowly.

Unlike batteries, which produce and store energy by means of a chemical reaction, supercapacitors store energy in an electric field, allowing them to charge and discharge in just fractions of a second.

Maxwell Technologies’ supercapacitors used in Continental AG’s VSS design also serve as an additional power source for stabilizing the vehicle’s electrical system during periods of high power demand.

Program manager for hybrid electric vehicles at Continental Automotive Systems, Jon Buckles, said his company’s VSS system combined with the use of supercapacitors helped automakers to create better cars for the future.

“Automotive manufacturers around the world are seeking new ways to improve the performance of their cars while satisfying consumer demands for fuel efficiency,” he said.

“Continental’s voltage stabilization system uses Maxwell’s ultracapacitors as an affordable option for automakers to create a more positive driving experience for their customers.”

CEO of Maxwell Technologies, Dr Franz Fink, said General Motors’ decision to use the company’s supercapicators as part of the VSS systems in their new Cadillac range, confirmed the auto industry was continuing down the road of vehicle electrification.

“Performance has always been important to car owners, and Maxwell’s ultracapacitors enable consumers to get the fuel economy they desire without limiting their cars’ performance,” he said.

“GM’s selection of Continental’s Maxwell-powered VSS is a further affirmation of our ultracapacitor capability for varying applications as the automotive industry continues down its path of vehicle electrification.”

Other OEM supercapacitor examples

General Motors isn’t the only major automaker to adopt supercapacitors for use in its stop-start systems.

PSA Peugeot Citroen began installing Maxwell’s supercapacitors for its stop-start systems in 2010.

Mazda Motor Corporation uses supercapacitors supplied by Nippon Chemi-Con Corp, introducing them in 2012 as part of a stop-start system called i-Eloop used on the Mazda6.

Automakers are adding the stop-start technology to help meet a 54.5 mpg corporate average fuel economy target by the 2025 model year.