It looks like a bus, yet the prototype is meant to be an alternative to conventional trams: neither heavy roadwork nor rails (it rolls on tires) or catenaries are needed. Without a continuous supply of electricity, it was necessary to choose an embedded energy storage solution!
Supercapacitors have been selected for their recharge speed, their lifespan (hundreds of thousands of charge/discharge cycle against a few thousand for a battery). The capacitors will be charged during the tram stops at each stations in a few dozen seconds. A range of one kilometer is announced for a cost five to ten times lower than that of a conventional tram.
This announcement shows that supercapacitors are not meant to be only auxiliary solutions but can also ensure the full operation of an electric vehicle. Buses powered by supercapacitors already exist in China since 2010.
This commercial development goes alongside many recent scientific advances in the field, including those of RS2E’s "Capacitive Storage" group coordinated by Thierry Brousse and Patrice Simon. The latter being delighted that "after electric boats powered by superpacitors, this electric tram is another demonstration that supercapacitors have become commercially viable for electrochemical storage in vehicles in the same way batteries are”.
First BlueTrams will be shipped in 2015 from a newly build factory in the Britany region.
The newly created “EDF pulse: Science and electricity” award chose three research groups including labs affiliated with RS2E as finalists.
The team co-ordinated by Prof. Patrice Simon (already rewarded in 2013 by science magazine La Recherche) is distinguished for its work in the field of supercapacitors. The research group includes the CIRIMAT (Toulouse) and PHENIX (Paris) labs as well as a scientist from UCLA.
Prof. Jean-Marie Tarascon and his team are also finalists for the prize for their work on Li-rich materials. Such materials could lead to a 20% capacity increase of batteries compared to currently used materials (see article).
Prof. Renaud Bouchet, also a contributing member of RS2E, is another finalist with his new project on improved polymer electrolyte for lithium metal polymer batteries, known for their high level of safety. Two labs affiliated with RS2E, the LEPMI in Grenoble and the ICR in Marseille are participating to the research group.
With 3 out the 4 finalists being affiliated with RS2E, the significance in the field of electrochemical storage of our members is highlighted. The winner project will receive a €150.000 grant. It will be revealed during a ceremony in April.
Recently, Dr. Mathieu Morcrette (co-coordinator of the benchmarking research area at RS2E with Dr. Bernard Lestriez) went to Korea for one week with Sébastien Cavalaglio (research engineer) to test a set of three prototyping machines (a coater, a winder and a pressing machine) aimed at improving technological research capabilities of RS2E.
The machines are made by Media Tech and PNT (People and Technology), two companies specialized in batteries' manufacturing equipment. They are used worldwide by major research groups and companies. The new equipment will enable RS2E’s partners to test new battery technologies in conditions that are close to industry standards. More precisely, the machines allow to spread active material on rolls of copper (negative electrode) and aluminum (positive electrode). The rolls are then cut to smaller sizes and assembled together to form so-called 18650 cells (picture). 18650-type cells are used in commercial products such as laptops or electric vehicles batteries. Therefore, it’s an excellent way to test new materials for battery or supercapacitors in “real” conditions.
In the coming weeks the equipment will be shipped to Amiens. Media Tech and PNT’s engineers will then proceed to the calibration of the three machines.
A more detailed report will be released once the three machines are up and running.
Last year RS2E’s director Jean-Marie Tarascon has been appointed professor at Collège de France at the chair “Materials chemistry and energy”. It is a tradition for Collège de France’s professors to give an inaugural lecture at the beginning of their tenure.
Prof. Tarascon's lecture title is “Materials chemistry and energy: examples of a millennial story”. His historical review will address the links between human history and the development of new materials, with a particular focus on materials for energy storage and conversion.
Jean-Marie Tarascon began his carrier by researching superconductivity, he later shifted towards electrochemical energy storage research. One of his most famous achievement is his contribution to the development of the Li-ion polymer battery at Bellcore Labs in 1994. He is currently researching sustainable synthesis pathways for electrode materials as well as investigating future technologies (Na-ion batteries…). He is focusing on both technological research (70 patents filed) and basic research (cosigned more than 600 research papers).
Source: [Collège de France's Press Release]
J. B. Goodenough, R. Yazami, A. Yoshino and Y. Nishi are four pioneers of battery research. Their contributions to the field made the commercialization of Li-ion batteries possible. They have been awarded the 2014 Charles Stark Draper Prize by the National Academy of Engineering (USA) for their work.
In the early 80’s, Goodenough and Yazami respectively discovered the cathode and anode materials that are still used in most modern rechargeable batteries (lithium cobalt oxide for positive electrodes and graphite negative electrodes).
Yoshino experimented with those two discoveries to produce a rechargeable lithium-ion battery prototype in 1985.
Nishi, then at a senior position at Sony Corporation, developed the engineering processes allowing for the commercialization of the first Li-ion batteries in 1991.
The recipients offer a good example of the technology-development pipeline from basic research to technological research and market-driven engineering. At RS2E, we strive to replicate their prowess by bringing together research labs, technical-research agencies and privately-held companies.