Motoring

Japanese company wants to power electric cars with wood – report

Supercapacitors made from refined wood pulp could provide a sustainable alternative to electric vehicle batteries.

A Japanese paper company is spearheading the development of new technology that could make lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles obsolete.

By refining wood pulp to microscopic proportions, Nippon Paper Industries is hoping to create supercapacitors which could store and release electrical energy with greater performance than currency battery technology, according to business news outlet Bloomberg.

When wood pulp is refined to hundredths of a micron it becomes cellulose nanofiber (CNF), which is currently used in normal household products such as nappies.

But the company insists breakthroughs in technology means CNF-based supercapacitors could “be applied for areas where lithium-ion batteries are used, such as cars and smartphones,” Nippon Paper CEO Toru Nozawa told Bloomberg.

Rather than chemically storing electrical energy like a typical battery, supercapacitors store electrons in an electric field. While they’re not capable of storing as much as a lithium-ion battery, they can be recharged and discharged without degrading to the degree found in batteries – making them ideal for mild-hybrid powertrains.

A scientific paper published in the journal Nature in early 2021 provided evidence to support the development of supercapacitors using wood pulp-derived cellulose nanofibers.

In 2019, Lamborghini debuted its first hybrid powertrain using a supercapacitor developed with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fitted to its Sian hypercar.

Ben Zachariah is an experienced writer and motoring journalist from Melbourne, having worked in the automotive industry for more than 15 years. Ben was previously an interstate truck driver and completed his MBA in 2021.

Ben began publishing car reviews and opinion pieces before being appointed Motoring Editor for an online lifestyle magazine. Working throughout the automotive industry in various marketing and communications roles over the past 15 years, he has written freelance on the topics of cars and watches for a number of publications. Ben is considered an expert in the area of classic car investment, which combines his love of finance, macroeconomics, and all things automotive. Ben lives in Melbourne and enjoys music, road trips, and the outdoors. 

See all of Ben’s articles

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