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Nanocapacitor slab to boost car batteries

Oz company hopes to cash in on green 'stop-start' car plans

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Australian company CAP-XX has announced a supercapacitor module for cars that it hopes will take a load off chemical batteries.

Capacitors are common in most electronic devices, thanks to their ability to hold a small charge for a short time. CAP-XX's current schtick is making very small and thin capacitors which, thanks to some nanotechnological wizardry, pack enough of a punch to power flashes in digital cameras and mobile phones without bulking them out to unacceptable proportions.

The company's new products have enough juice punch to keep a car's air conditioning, lights and navigation systems running when the engine is off, then kick the engine back into life. That's a trick that will be in more demand thanks to revised environmental standards for cars that aim to reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The auto industry's response to those standards is the stop-start engine that stops working, and burning petrol, when it isn't moving.

Analyst Pike Research suggests 186 million stop-start cars will hit the global road by 2020, making this a very decent opportunity.

CAP-XX thinks it can get a slice of that action because car batteries will wear out inside eighteen months of asked to fire up an engine as many times a day as stop-start cars will require. Bigger chemical batteries mean more weight for a car and more lead and acid to recycle, two big no-nos.

Other chemical battery companies whose technologies allow smaller, lighter and less noxious batteries are also eyeing off this market, but CAP-XX hopes its module's small size - about the same as six DVD cases stacked together - and high energy density will give it an edge. The company even says it's kit will even help to start cars on days cold enough to make conventional cars grumpy and can start a car seven times. There's a video demonstration here. The module will will be charged by a car's alternator or regenerative braking rigs.

CAP-XX says it will work with Tier 1 automobile parts suppliers to manufacture the modules, and will design and prototype the control electronics and modules to suit their requirements. The company is also “already in negotiations with a leading Chinese automotive component company to commercialise the technology in China” and says $US60 per module is its target price. ®

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