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This article on Slashdot decries the “ultracapacitor” as the next big thing in terms of mobile computing and electricity-powered vehicles, and as we all know, what powers your laptop today will eventually trickle down to power the power tools of tomorrow. And the battery requirements of electric cars are very similar to that of power tools.

The long and short of it is that you may soon see power tools with less capactity but much, much shorter recharge times — like less than two minutes. For example, the DeWalt pictured above only runs for about three minutes, or enough to drive 30 wood screws. But it recharges in just one minute.

If all this sounds familiar, it should. We wrote about one of this concept’s early-to-market products recently.

If you’ve got a minute, check out the Slashdot article as the second link below — a NASA document describing the current state of ultracapacitor technology.

Ultracapacitors Soon To Replace Many Batteries? [Slashdot]
Ultracapacitor Applications [NASA]


13 Responses to Ultracapacitors: The Next Source For Powerful Cordless Tools?

  1. l_bilyk says:

    If you have to keep running back and forth to the charger you may as well just use a corded tool. This idea is just plain stupid.

    • Hebekiah says:

      High amp tools like saws run through my batteries quickly on tough jobs, then take an hour or two to recharge. Plenty of times I’d take the tradeoff.

  2. David P says:

    Had you read the article, you wouldn’t be so quick to condemn the idea. Your uninformed criticism is just plain stupid.

  3. Evan N. says:

    I too don’t think the cordless drill is the best application, but I can see the merits in the technology. As for tools, we know that electric motors give loads of torque; and if you need a lot of output rather quickly, you are describing exactly what a capacitor can do for you, and a battery can’t do (at least for a very long time). Somebody should use an ultracapactor to make the most powerful cordless electric impact wrench in existence. This is a tool designed for intermittent use, where you could use it for 2 minutes and set it on the charger for 1 without it interrupting your workflow terribly. Its main requirement is to make a lot of power very quickly, rather than a steady amount of power for a long time, like a drill.

  4. David P says:

    OK….the article proposes that in the near future, ultracapacitors will have at least 50% of the power capacity of a comparably-sized Li-ion battery.

    The drill in the blurb above is merely proof of concept. It does not imply any limitations in the technology. And no, Evan, the ultracapacitor’s primary function is NOT to produce a large amount of power very quickly…that’s what a regular cap does.

    Since this was linked from Slashdot, I’ll use a /. acronym: RTFA.

  5. Wayne D. says:

    Ultra caps are increasing in performance per size pretty quickly. Ultra caps were almost unheard of in general electronics until the last several years.

  6. Evan N. says:

    I did RTFA…at least I wasn’t asked to STFU. At any rate, my understanding kung fu may not be as strong as yours. So an ultracap is like a battery but not really? 🙂 Neat concept anyhow.

  7. Blind says:

    Can the ultra caps be combined with a battery so that you get the long lasting benefits of the battery which would charge the caps as they drain so you can still get the rapid drain characteristics that they offer?

  8. Blind, the problem with coupling a battery to a cap. is that it would drain its juice very quickly as well and then need to be recharged. Batteries are not constructed for quick high drain applications. That’s partially why batteries carry such long charging times – rapid overjuicing will damage them.

    I honestly do not think that ultracaps will be all that great for power tools. If you are required to be close to a power source for frequent recharges, then you may as well use a beefier corded tool.

    Hmm, maybe one bring a battery powered charging system with them. With that, you could have a mobile/cordless charging bay so that you can use an ultracap powered tool in remote areas or on location. But then again, there’s the problem of charging up the charging batteries.

  9. I think Blind is right on. The batteries that’re currently used in power tools are a compromise, using thick plates to cope with high discharge rates, which reduces their available capacity. With a hybrid system, you could use higher-capacity batteries but still have instantaneous power available for sudden demands like starting torque.

    Ultracapacitors are a bigger deal for vehicles with regenerative braking, because they don’t have a recharge current limit like batteries, and they don’t waste as much energy as heat. But I could definitely see them being useful in tools. The impact wrench is an excellent example; you need obscene amounts of torque for very short periods. If you’re running the wrench for more than 5 minutes you’re doing something wrong, but to deplete a battery in 5 minutes is to run it so hard you’re destroying it. So you use a bigger battery to supply the current you need without strain, but then you’re carrying around excess energy capacity you never use. Capacitors are perfect for this application, and charging them from batteries (even integrated in the same power pack) would give you portability, long runtime, and high current capability. I’m on board with the idea.

  10. RALPH says:

    You guys are off the mark here. a battery drill driving screws is drawing current acording to motor rpm nill at no load, upwards of twenty amps at stall. Higher voltage same amps more torque. volts x amps = watts 746watts = 1hp An impact tool usually runs at higher no load speed around 2000 rpm full impact max torque around 1400 rpm way lower current draw 5 -6 amps area. Drills are not the best srewdivers. an impact will drive many times as many 3″ #10 screws per charge than any drill. Con. over 3″ a deck or dry wall screw will tend to torque twist like a torsion spring at the thin shank absobing the impact. Batt life on a Makita 9.6v impact couple years ago nicd batt 3” screws in 2x4s 3 batts 8hrs advatages longer run time, motor not overheating,burn out,brush life, stress on gears, no torque reaction to the wrist, easier to maintain bit alignment, major cause of camout and damage to phillips bits. I snapped the chuck off an 18v drill at stall out once. Burned the armature on a 24v driving screws. This one had 3.3 amp nmh batt capable of producing in excess of 30amps at over 20 v to the motor. Bottom line a drill is not a screwdriver. It is a drill. Screw driving is the hardest abuse you can give a drill if you dont use the torque limiter and allow the motor to stall out. An impact tool will not stall it will load the motor down about 25% so load the battery

  11. RALPH says:

    An impact batt tool is one of the easiest tools on batts of all. It never pulls high current. I have 4 9.6v Dewalt 40-45 ftlbs 1/4″ hex, B&D 12v compact 70 ftlbs 1/4 hex ,DRILLMASTER 18V 90-100 ftlbs 1/4 hex ,TOOLSHOP 24v 1/2sq 210 ftlbs. Also B&D 24v Hammerdrill, 5 3/8 saw, saber saw ,recipsaw.(kit set)

  12. Hebekiah says:

    Saws. No way around it they draw high current on start up and when hitting tough spots. I keep wondering about using superultra capacitors along with the batteries for those big load moments? To get the capacitors to take the brunt and recharge from the batteries.

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