Ultracapacitors For Stationary, Industrial, Consumer And Transport Energy Storage - An Industry, Technology And Market Analysis

Innovative Research and Products (iRAP), Inc.
July 1, 2013
189 Pages - SKU: IRAP5101634

Electrochemical double-layer capacitors (EDLCs or ECs), also known as supercapacitors or ultracapacitors, as well as their sister product, asymmetrical electrochemical double-layer capacitors (AEDLCs), are already mature technologies with a growing range of applications in electric vehicles, mobile phones, energy harvesting, renewable energy and other products of the future.

Supercapacitors have properties intermediate between those of batteries and traditional capacitors, but they are being improved more rapidly than either. That includes improvement in cost, and the cost reductions result in their use to enhance batteries and even to replace batteries and capacitors in an increasing number of applications, from renewable energy to microscopic electronics. For example, today a smart mobile phone may have better sound and flash that works at ten times the distance because a supercapacitor has taken over these functions from conventional capacitors.

For many applications, the relatively high cost of ECs is currently the primary reason they are not the energy storage technology of choice. Despite their high level of performance, these capacitors are simply too expensive to compete against the other available approaches. For some applications, potential users find ECs of interest but conclude that their energy density is too low. Hence, increasing energy density and lowering cost are the primary challenges facing EC developers. This must be done without sacrificing the high cycle life and exceptional high-rate performance that sets ECs apart from batteries

Between 2009 and 2013, much research has been done on the use of graphene in electrodes to boost energy storage and increase voltage in supercapacitors. These priority research directions for supercapacitors, if followed, should lead to major performance improvements in energy storage and voltage, keeping price objectives on top priority.

Two major forces will shape market dynamics that are quite favorable for technology adoption in the supercapacitors business:
  • rapidly advancing ultracapacitor technology, which will improve price/performance ratio; and
  • quickly evolving “green energy” applications for which the ultracapacitors are becoming key enabling technology.
In a few more years, ultracapacitors are expected to become a mainstream technology, along with established electrochemical battery energy storage. The market for ultracapacitor products is growing rapidly and becoming more diverse as new applications are developed and commercialized.


This study focuses on key ultracapacitor products, the impact of new materials such as grapheme-based electrodes, carbide-derived carbon (CDC), ionic electrolytes, and new configurations such as lithium supercapacitors, nickel/carbon supercapacitors, asymetrical and hybrid supercapacitors. A major goal of the study is to provide the size and growth of the ultracapacitors markets, industry trends, company profiles, recent patents and review of new partnerships. Another goal of this report is to provide a detailed and comprehensive mult-client study of the markets in North America, Europe, Japan, China, Korea and the rest of the world (ROW) for ultracapacitors, as well as provide potential business opportunities in the future.

The objectives include thorough coverage of underlying economic issues driving the ultracapacitor business, as well as assessments of new, advanced ultracapacitors that nearly sixty companies are developing in 2013. Also covered are current legislative pressures for more safety and environmental protection, as well as users’ expectations for economical ultracapacitors. Another important objective is to provide realistic market data and forecasts for ultracapacitors through 2018.

Ultracapacitor users in developed markets must contend with twin pressures – to innovate and, at the same time, to reduce costs. Cost continues to be one of the main factors seriously restricting further propagation of supercapacitors. While being challenged by batteries and conventional capacitors, the product is slowly finding its way in various industries. In spite of the applicability of the supercapacitor from the technical standpoint, it will be always frowned on if the subsequent cost is high. Therefore the study also looks at the cost considerations of ultracapacitors in competition with other energy storage devices.


New applications for ultracapacitors have been proposed in recent years. The popularity of these devices is due to their long cycle life and high power density relative to batteries. Ultracapacitors exhibit, in principle, unlimited cycle life and maintenance-free operation as an alternative to batteries in power circuits. New, promising applications for ultracapacitors are battery-less, low power, harvested wireless sensor networks, as well as pulse-power sources in fuel cell and hybrid vehicle applications and power tools. The pulse-power source provides peak power during acceleration and stores regenerative energy during braking in hybrid vehicles.

The ultracapacitor business is currently undergoing a major structural shift caused by several developments in nano-structured carbon, carbon nanotubes, low-cost graphitic carbon, barium titanate ceramic electrodes, nano-graphene platelet (NGP) electrodes, and research on new asymetricals (nickel hydroxides, ruthenium oxide) and new hybrid technologies (lithium-ion supercapacitors, or LICs, nickel carbon supercapacitors, and CDC-based electrodes, that challenge the status quo. These developments are targeted toward boosting the energy density and reducing cost to create preference for the products, with or without battery, among application engineers.

As prices of ultracapacitors drop, better commercial viability and growing dissatisfaction with existing energy storage solutions are expected to steer customers toward this emerging technology. Application in combination with large batteries, in stationary renewable energy power stations such as wind and solar, “green” mobile applications such as battery-less, short-range city buses running purely on supercaps, and in hybrid electric cars in combination with batteries, are a few strong areas of growth. This will be especially true as continuous product enhancements and value-added features such as on-line gaming and Wi-Fi accessibility in consumer electronics necessarily require more power. Multi-functionality is driving change in the energy storage landscape. The consumer electronics industry has changed drastically in the past few years. Portable devices are increasingly becoming multi-functional, not only in phones, which currently work for many purposes (e.g., making calls, sending SMS, internet navigation, email, video playing), but also in cameras and other devices as well. Supercapacitors fit well into the emerging energy storage landscape.

Demand from the industrial sector is also expected to increase. Heavy-lifting cranes and heavy usage in power tools are emerging applications of supercapacitors. Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) and DC power systems are looking at incorporating ultracapacitors as the primary energy storage solution to boost power reliability. Small form factor supercapacitors are increasingly preferred for battery-less, ultra-low power wireless networks.

iRAP conducted a study on ultracapacitors in 2009. Since then, many new developments have taken place in technology, industry and markets, such as more new-generation electric and hybrid vehicles, new material technologies, and many new entrants to the market. Therefore, iRAP felt a need to conduct a detailed study in order to better understand both the technology and market dynamics. The report identifies and evaluates market potential in stationary, industrial, consumer and transport segments.


This study provides the most thorough and up-to-date assessment that can be found anywhere on the subject. The study also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market development taking place in ultracapacitors throughout the world. This, in turn, contributes to a determination of what kind of strategic response companies may adopt in order to compete in this dynamic market.

The study provides the most complete accounting of ultracapacitor market growth in North America, Europe, Japan, China, Korea and the rest of the world. The study also provides extensive quantification of the many important facets of market developments in emerging markets for stationary, industrial, consumer and transport energy storage. The study also covers new usage of ultracapacitors in automatic power metering, energy harvesting devices for wireless networking, and hard disc drives of notebooks. This quantification, in turn, contributes to the determination of what kinds of strategic responses suppliers may adopt in order to compete in these dynamic markets.


The present survey focuses on four major markets – stationary energy storage, industrial energy storage, consumer electronics energy storage and transport energy storage. It also covers seven distinct technologies – activated carbon, hybrid/asymmetrical, pseudocapacitors, carbon aerogels, barium titanate, carbide derived carbon (CDC) and graphene/nanostructured carbon-based electrodes.

The market data contained in this report quantify opportunities for ultracapacitors. In addition to product types, this report also covers the many issues concerning the merits and future prospects of the ultracapacitor business, including corporate strategies, information technologies, and the means for providing these highly advanced product and service offerings.

The supply chain is of keen interest, including both carbon cloth and powder. The need for higher voltages per cell and automation are addressed. Lower raw materials prices are crucial to reaching price targets of $0.01 to $0.005 per farad by 2015.

This report also covers in detail the economic and technological issues regarded by many as critical to the industry’s current state of change. It provides a review of the ultracapacitor industry and its structure, and of the many companies involved in providing these products. The competitive positions of the main players in the market and the strategic options they face are also discussed, along with such competitive factors as marketing, distribution and operations.


This study addresses the global market for electric double-layer carbon (EDLC) supercapacitors, which demonstrate the unique characteristic of having extremely high capacitance (in the farad range) in low voltage cells (1.2Vdc to 2.5Vdc in large quantities).

The study looks at this fledging market, the players, the technical challenges, and technical threats; the activated carbon supply chain; and the end markets in which these devices are consumed – stationary, industrial, consumer and transport energy storage. It further focuses on coin cells and large can supercapacitors and the rapid growth of large can designs in variable speed drives, and heavy trucks and buses.

Audiences for this study include marketing executives, business unit managers, and other decision makers in ultracapacitor companies, as well as in companies peripheral to this business.

The study will benefit existing manufacturers of capacitors who seek to expand revenues and market opportunities by moving to new technology such as ultracapacitors, which are positioned to become a preferred solution for many energy-storage and power-delivery applications. Also, this study will benefit users of ultracapacitors who deal with new power-hungry electronic products such as wireless communications devices, the increasing use of electric power in vehicles, and the growing demand for highly reliable, maintenance-free backup power. These demands are creating significant markets for new and improved energy-storage and power-delivery solutions. For example, sizing the primary power source to meet transient peak-power requirements, rather than average- power requirements, is costly and inefficient. Primary energy sources can be designed to be smaller, lighter and less costly if they are coupled with specialized power components, such as ultracapacitors, that can deliver or absorb brief bursts of high power on demand for periods of time ranging from fractions of a second to several minutes.


Ultracapacitors, once a technological novelty, are now in mainstream and are showing significant sales volumes. The ultracapacitor industry is complex and fast-moving, with large variations in technology adopted, material composition and configuration. Around the world, consumers are demanding high power density as well as extremely long cycle life (although ultracapacitor energy density is small compared with that of batteries). Focusing on different market segments, manufacturers increasingly are adopting a truly global view of the market, attempting to achieve growth through company mergers and acquisitions and by implementing global strategies.

The ultracapacitor market is an attractive market characterized by very high production volumes of units that must be both extremely reliable and low in cost. At hundreds of millions of dollars, the market is still growing. This growth continues to be driven by increasing demands for these devices as energy storage in combination with battery in stationary renewable sources of energy like wind and solar power stations, transport vehicles such as green buses, heavy cranes, fuel cells, hybrid vehicles, industrial systems, power tools and consumer electronics. Existing products will continue to find new applications, and new products will emerge to improve functionality.

There are four major markets where ultracapacitors are needed, each having its own specific requirements. These are stationary, industrial, consumer and transport energy storage power management. A wide range of ultracapacitor applications, such as uninterruptible power supplies, clean energy, backup power and automobiles, will see market growth.
  • The stationary energy storage market needs ultracapacitors for short duration applications of energy storage, which are characterized by the need for high power for short periods of time. These include power quality ride-through applications, power stabilization, adjustable speed drive support, temporary support of distributed resources during load steps, voltage flicker mitigation and many other applications. Most of these will involve anywhere from only a few seconds of energy storage up to 20 minutes or so. Other applications are: backup power (uninterruptible power supply) and power management systems used in distributed generation and wind and solar energy generating stations.
  • The industrial market needs ultracapacitors for power quality, handling power surges and short-term power loss. Since electricity is transmitted at 60Hz or 120Hz, this market also needs high-frequency devices, based on aqueous electrodes, on a much larger scale.
  • The consumer electronics and computer market needs small high-frequency devices in order to reduce battery size.
  • Based on potential volumes, the transportation industry represents the largest market opportunity for ultracapacitors. The transport energy storage market wants to use ultracapacitors as load-leveling devices with batteries in electric and hybrid vehicles. Transportation applications include braking energy recuperation and torque augmentation systems for hybrid-electric buses, trucks and autos and electric rail vehicles, vehicle power network smoothing and stabilization, engine starting systems for internal combustion vehicles, and burst power for idle stop-start systems.
Emerging applications, including increasing use of electric power in vehicles, wireless communication systems and growing demand for highly reliable, maintenance-free, backup power for telecommunication information technology and industrial installations are creating significant opportunities for more efficient and reliable energy storage and power delivery products.

The ultracapacitor business is currently undergoing a major structural shift caused by several developments in nanostructured carbon, carbon nanotubes, low-cost graphitic carbon, barium titanate ceramic electrodes and nano-graphene platelets (NGP) electrodes. Research on new asymmetrical ultracapacitors (nickel hydroxides, ruthenium oxide) and new hybrid technologies – lithium-ion supercapacitors (LIC) and nickel carbon supercapacitors – challenges the status quo. The high capacitance associated with graphene appears to be an edge effect, and it is predicted that by 2018, cost-effective manufacturing of grapheme-based electrodes will be a reality.

The report has estimated the markets according to applications, form factors and regions. In terms of the industry structure, there are more than sixty companies involved in the development and manufacturing of ultracapacitors, and there is a surprising range of products available. The study also identified a dozen electrode material/finished electrode suppliers.

While in 2013, industrial applications such as large uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), OEM equipment, cranes, electric forklifts, power tools, AGVs, clean tech for commercial and other industrial uses constitute the largest application, by 2018 hybridized transportation energy storage application (autos, trains, transit vehicles, buses, trucks), power device net, HEVs and Evs will have the largest share.

In terms of size (form factor), large-sized rectangular or cylindrical jelly-rolled, more than ten farad up to 5000 farad, sold as single cells or in modules or in banks with varying voltage and farad requirements will have the largest share and will continue to hold on the share during the forecast period.

Major findings of this report are:

In 2013, the global market is estimated to reach US$625 million, and it is expected to grow to over US$1.4 billion by 2018. The compound annual average growth rate (CAGR) is estimated to be 17.5% from 2013 to 2018.

North America will continue to maintain its share in the next five years. North American market will be followed by Japan, China, Europe and Korea. China and Korea will see larger growth rates of above 20% annually.

From 2013 to 2018, transportation applications, which are mostly automotive applications, will show the highest growth rate, followed by stationary energy including sources storage for renewable energy power, consumer electronics and industrial applications.



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