Maxwell Technologies and Alcoa AFL Automotive to Develop Ultracapacitor-Based Cold-Start System for Trucks

14 August 2006

Maxwell Technologies and Alcoa AFL Automotive have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on the development of a cold-start system for the commercial transportation market. The companies will integrate Maxwell’s BOOSTCAP ultracapacitors with AFL’s power management system to develop an efficient engine starting system.

The immediate goal for the two is to produce a cold-start system ready for testing and evaluation by truck OEMs by the end of the first quarter of 2007.

Increasing environmental regulations—not to mention the cost of fuel—preclude the ability of operators to allow their trucks to run all night. More than 20 states have enacted or are proposing regulations that prohibit running diesel truck engines overnight to power the “hotel loads”—heating, cooling, entertainment and other driver comfort feature.

Running those loads on battery power all night can leave the batteries with insufficient power to start the vehicle in the morning, especially in cold weather. With the proposed cold-start system, the ultracapacitor pack provides what amounts to an on-board jump-start capability, according to Allen Zwierzchowski, President, Worldwide Components AFL Automotive.

In addition, fleet owners incur significant costs due to vehicle downtime and jump-starting stranded trucks. Incorporating ultracapacitors to relieve batteries of demanding short-duration, high-current loads, such as cold starting, will improve overall system performance and reliability, extend battery life, and reduce battery maintenance and replacement costs.

—Allen Zwierzchowski

AFL Automotive, an Alcoa business, designs, develops and produces electrical and electronic distribution systems for personal and commercial vehicles, working with vehicle manufacturers and their sub-suppliers in the major automotive centers in China, Japan, Asia, Europe and the United States.

Wow, such a great idea! I never thought of that before. Ultra caps are costly but if you could have cars outfitted with an emergency ultracap for starting purposes you could eliminate the need for jumper cables. Have it isolated such that you have to "engage" it separately from the electrical system and you would never worry about accidentally leaving your headlights on,etc, ...even with a dead battery you will still be able to start the car.

Would it not be simpler just to use an APU? Also, most "driver comfort" features can't run on battery power (like air conditioners, which are not a luxury item). This is a useless application for ultracaps.

Patrick, you assume only one jump-start is needed untill you can recharge. I remmember once I needed 4 jump-starts from the point where my battery died to the garage (about 30 km). Don't throw out the cables yet :-)

Seems like Koldban competition. http://www.koldban.com/

John Ard: I agree with you. You cannot run the truck AC on the batteries overnight. In Europe, long haul trucks are not allowed to idle for extended period (as they do in USA and Canada) but are equipped with propane APUs. They start on their regular battery.

A small fuel cell could eventually replace the propane APU?

The ultracaps (esp next gen) would be usefull with electric hybrids because they could store regenerative braking energy that spill over from batteries. Batteries, even ones that can charge in a few minutes, can not handle efficiently all of the energy given off by regenrative braking. This is especially true during stops from highway speed (55-65+mph), or rapid deceleration (but not brake pedal to the metal, since that would engage the conventional brakes full on).

In the U.S. we have diesel APU's (the most popular ones use Kubota 18.8 HP three cyl.) that can warm the engine coolant for better cold starts, can power the trucks electronics, and have their own compressor for running the AC. They've been on the market for years, it just takes $3 diesel for most guys to fork over$8000 for one of these.

Sidenote: How is that aluminum battery doing. ALCOA is probably looking at that off to the side right now.

John:
It is not that simple. Current regulations in US (it is mostly state-wide, not federal) calls for prohibition of idling during night stops. There are plenty of programs for heavy truck rest areas with hoteling electricity and cool/warm air supply, but it is not the solution. Forced to develop alternative solution for truck idling for AC powering, trucking industry is looking for variety of alternatives, for example for small gasoline/LPG/diesel auxiliary generators. Surprisingly, they discovered that modern deep cycle lead-acid butteries could easily power AC for night stay. It is by far the most inexpensive solution. Addition of ultracap allows to unheard before rate of buttery discharge with assured engine start-up capability on even 90% drained battery. And it is not one-time starting. First starting attempt will require 1 minute supercap charging from drained buttery, second – two minutes, and so on.

Most (if not all) anti-idling laws allow one to run a gen set or an APU. They are preferable to an all electric set up because when something breaks (and something always will) it can be worked on by the trucker. I highly doubt that the same people who won't adopt disc brakes because drums have a proven track record will use ultracapacitors in their rig when an APU would get the job done.

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