A presentation made by Belgian researchers at Electric Vehicle Symposium (EVS) 27 in Barcelona might irk fans of battery-driven EVs. A new study found that the numbers prove fuel cell hybrid electric vehicle (FCHEV) powertrains partnered with supercapacitors have better fuel economy than powertrains that blend a fuel cell and a battery.
An Evaluation Study of Current and Future Fuel Cell Hybrid Electric Vehicles Powertrains was written by eight Belgian researchers, who studied different FCHEV powertrain combinations and designs. This included fuel cell/supercapacitor, fuel cell/battery, and a combination of supercapacitors and batteries. One reason the fuel cell/supercapacitor combination won was because it could be charged or discharged at a high current, beyond the level at which the battery can function. Its fuel economy is also higher, despite the likely extra weight, and it performs more efficiently than the fuel cell/battery or fuel cell/battery/supercapacitor hybrid electric vehicle powertrains (which have the wonderful new abbreviation FC/B/SC HEV).
Engineers have been looking forward to supercapacitors becoming commonplace in cars, but that may not happen for decades. The study is likely to grab the attention of Toyota, which has been testing a supercapacitor in its TS030 Hybrid Le Mans racer. The supercapacitor takes the place of the hybrid's traditional battery packs. Perhaps supercapacitors will someday play a role in the powertrain of vehicles like the Toyota FCV hydrogen fuel-cell concept vehicle pictured above?