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Ultracapacitors, Are they worth it?,...

Well, they are finally starting to come out of the shadows, these so-called Ultra-capacitors. Really, What are they, and are they what they claim?,...


Speaking in terms of big-rigs, it takes a huge amount of energy to get one cranked up, there is no doubt, and even more if that truck is in the extreme cold. Combine that with the fact that EGR/DPF trucks should not be idled, and that every driver wants power for their laptop, etc., you suddenly have a recipe for torturing regular truck batteries. They don't like to be discharged repeatedly, they get weak in cold weather, and they tend to go bad right when you need them the most. There is definitely room for improvement in the area of battery technology on a big-truck, but are Ultra-capacitors the answer?

Capacitors are very, very different from batteries not only in how they store energy, but in how they operate. Batteries use chemicals that break down over time, weakening them, but Capacitors do not. Trying not to get too technical here, in its simplest terms, a Capacitor stores and builds up electricity in a static manner with no chemical process. When you walk across a room and then touch a doorknob, and it shocks the piss out of you, it is because your body built up a charge, just before touching the door knob, just like a capacitor does. Just like you and the door knob, Capacitors are able to discharge all their energy in one big massive jolt. A battery cannot do this because it takes time for chemicals to react. Also, since there is no chemical reaction, Capacitors can literally be charged and discharged thousands upon thousands of times without ever going bad. Because of these traits, I myself have always known that a Capacitor is the best solution to starting a car or truck with electricity, rather than a battery. So why haven't we been using this all along?,...Because a box filled with liquid is more dense than a box filled with tin foil and/or carbon threads. In the past, a typical Capacitor big enough to start a big-rig would be nearly 10 times the size of 4 truck batteries. That makes them impractical very fast, so are Ultra-capacitors for real? or are they a gimmick.?

The Ultracapacitor,...

Is that just a fancy name?,..or is there something to this?,...Well, actually there is something to this. Carbon nano-fibers have been around since the late 1800's, but are very expensive and slow to make. They actually have to be grown chemically. Somewhere in around 2005-2006, MIT figured out that with nano-fibers, a Capacitor can be packed tight enough with these micro-buggers, that it could make it hold as much energy as a battery of the same size. The only problem is that it is extremely expensive to make them. Well, since then, the cost of making them has come down, so this puts them in the market finally, and here we are.

True Ultra-capacitors are not like any other capacitors. You cannot just go to wal-mart and buy some really big car stereo capacitors and put them together to get the same result. they are very, very dense, making them very powerful, but also very expensive. Be very cautious about buying one of these things to replace your batteries, as I am sure there are already knock-off companies willing to cheat you.

My Opinion, for what it's worth...

I see it being a huge benefit for big-trucks in the area of both cranking them up, and the fact that you could use AGM or perhaps less expensive deep cycle marine batteries for all your other electronics when the truck is not running. The biggest downsides I see is the fact that the inside of these things is made of very dense fibers that can possibly break down due to vibration, etc. Also, there is electronics inside them to control starting your truck that can go bad. there is also the fact that they have the potential to release all their energy in one 'big bang' so to speak. Amongst my many years of working with large industrial equipment, I have literally seen large storage capacitors in industrial applications go off with the force of a stick of dynamite, blowing steel electrical cabinets apart as if you had set a bomb in them. Over charging a Capacitor with excess voltage will do this with no warning, especially if it is getting old, and moisture has gotten into it.

It only takes a Capacitor the size of a beer can to have that much destruction, but an Ultracapacitor!?,... WoW, I cannot imagine the destructive force one of these things could produce if it were to do that. I wonder if the makers of these things have considered that. I suppose it could result in a massive explosion. I am not kidding when I say I have seen first hand, the results of large capacitors exploding. It is extremely dangerous. Besides that very real danger, capacitors of this size also tend to slowly build a charge on their own due to static in the air around them, so one sitting on a shelf somewhere, or disconnected, may become charged unwittingly, though it is not likely to get overcharged all on its own, but what if your alternator were to go bad? -- Just my thoughts.


Yes, they are worth the $1,000 + price tag if your someone who uses their truck in extreme cold (northern canada), where regular batteries tend to be much less potent. For those operations, I think they will quickly become standard necessary equipment. If your one of these tech. savvy drivers that has lots of gadgets and/or refrigerators in your truck, constantly draining the batteries when it is shut off, then of coarse, it will likely benefit you, but only as long as you combine this new technology with some expensive AGM's or deep-cycles to go with it. If your one of those drivers that starts their truck 50+ times a day, then these things will help with battery wear, but I would be more concerned with investing in a geared starter, or perhaps an air-starter, before resorting to a very expensive capacitor. All in all, it still IS NOT A REPLACEMENT TO AN APU!!!. There's just no getting around the fact that a good APU will benefit you more than any of the alternatives I have seen out there. Batteries, including Capacitors, eventually go dead if there is nothing to replenish their energy. An APU will be able to provide that kind of power long after any set of truck batteries/Capacitor combination has gone dead.

For more info on these things, here is a link to a decent brand...

These are the real deal..
Maxwell's Ultracapacitor-Based Engine Start Module

That is just my opinion of these things,...Rawze
the #1 complaint of Maxwell's Ultracapacitor
"it sucks sitting in a shop for extra half hour, after a fuel filter change, because the thing has to recharge after cranking to get the prime back (pre-filled fuel filter, no manual primer pump on N14)"

Capacitor charges from battery voltage and steps up the voltage to 16VDC, it usually takes 15 minutes of charging then you can crank again.
(03-15-2016 )yamajason Wrote: [ -> ]the #1 complaint of Maxwell's Ultracapacitor
"it sucks sitting in a shop for extra half hour, after a fuel filter change, because the thing has to recharge after cranking to get the prime back (pre-filled fuel filter, no manual primer pump on N14)"

Nice, I didn't think of that. Thanks for the feedback.
I've had one a little over two years now. I live and work on the Canadian prairies. As Rawze says I'm the perfect candidate for one of these.
I have a 2013 Western Star with a DD15. I don't like to idle all night. I have both Webasto engine pre-heater and bunk heater, they use up some of my battery power, plus the fridge kicking on and off all night, so the Maxwell takes the worry out of starting in the morning. I have successfully used the Maxwell down to -29C, below that I just leave the truck running. When it gets that cold you don't want to take a chance.

As far as starting the truck after fuel filter changes, it's easy.
I just move the starter wire from the start post on the Maxwell and attach it to the positive post. Then crank away as usual, after you get things sorted out, just return the starter wire to the start post on the Maxwell. Only takes 30 seconds and you don't have to wait for the Maxwell to recharge.
I recently replaced my batteries with AGM's that I picked up on sale at my local International dealer. Anyways, over the past year I have been piecing together a stereo system for my truck. It is a 3400 watt system with three amps. I worried about battery drain, yes I'm anal about this stuff, so I installed a small AGM battery in my sleepers closet. I have that attached to an ignition keyed battery isolator so that when the key is off, my little battery in the closet is isolated from the four truck batteries...

The reason I mention this, is that my TriPac went down the other day, the truck sat for over a week, 10 days in below freezing temps. I forgot to turn the fridge off, and the inverter... Around a week later, I went out there to start the truck, upon hitting the ignition the volt meter was not looking promising, I was expecting a click click click... She started right up! That little battery did the trick and started the truck! There is no way in hell this truck should have started with the batteries alone, been there and done that. But since installing this tiny battery in the truck, my electrical system has worked better than ever. Just a thought, and a hell of allot cheaper than one of these $1000 dollar power cells.
I have started my own truck with the batteries down at barely 11 volts. they are AGMs.
(03-17-2016 )Rawze Wrote: [ -> ]I have started my own truck with the batteries down at barely 11 volts. they are AGMs.

I wouldn't have anything other than AGMs after running them through the winter, these things have never failed, unlike the old lead and water ones they replaced.
I have had a maxwell for 2 years with 3 agm batteries no problems till 3 days ago, it just quit working so I put the starter cable on the agm called maxwell and they're sending me a new one no questions asked, I run team with my wife and we do not idle had agm,s down to 10 volts and trk still fires right up,
Thanks for starting this thread about the Uktra capacitors and also highlighting the AGMs.

The prices on the AGMs are more reasonable now and I'm thinking I should make the move soon to the AGMs.
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