Does The Future Of Electric Cars Lie In Capacitors?

Back To The Future II DeLorean - by Flickr user

Back To The Future II DeLorean - by Flickr user

Back to the Future may have been right: The cars of tomorrow will be powered by capacitors (they will not, presumably, be able to time-travel).

At least, that’s what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at yesterday’s Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, unleashing a torrent of speculation that the electric car company may be researching capacitor storage.

Capacitors are electric devices that can store charges temporarily. They can handle a greater number of charge cycles than batteries, and can provide quick jolts of energy.

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at the wheel of a Tesla Roadster

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If Tesla could find a way to use them in conjunction with—and eventually in place of—their current lithium-ion batteries, electric cars could travel greater distances before needing to be recharged.

Interestingly, Musk originally came to California to study high-energy-density capacitor physics at Stanford. “I did that for a laugh,” he said at the conference.

After being enrolled for a few days, he dropped out of Stanford to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. And if Tesla’s able to push the state of the art in energy storage forward, he may well have the last laugh.

[Image by  Flickr/]

This story, written by Marie C. Baca, was originally posted on VentureBeat's GreenBeat, an editorial partner of GreenCarReports.


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Comment (1)
  1. Capacitors are amazing. Basically they are surfaces onto which you can place electrons for future use like rubbing a balloon on your head. The electrons are just transferred from one surface to the other.
    The problem with batteries is that they involve chemical reactions. All this making and breaking of chemical bonds eventually fails in some way and the batteries fail. Capacitors are much simpler, if they can get them to work as long term, high capacity, low cost devices.

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