Ultracapacitors on the Way

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A new form of energy storage technology, popular in applications ranging from spacecraft to race cars, is beginning to move into the trucking space. Ultracapacitors may have the potential to eliminate the downtime truck drivers and fleet operators often experience as a result of dead batteries.


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European-based manufacturer Skeleton Technologies has announced the availability of a new 24 V Engine Start Module (SkelStart ESM), which uses high-performance ultracapacitor technology to ensure engine start at any time, in any conditions. The SkelStart ESM is the only unit of its kind to be designed in way to fit heavy trucks and can be fitted into the D02 box types commonly used by battery manufacturers.



Ultracapacitors are highly efficient and able to provide much higher currents of power than lead acid batteries. They can also charge and discharge millions of times, offering lifetimes up to 500 times longer than batteries.


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With this technology, the ultracapacitors, not the batteries, provide the power required to start the truck engine. The batteries are then only required to provide low power loads once the engine is up and running. This effectively eradicates the problem of an engine not starting due to cold, depletion or periods of inactivity. Start failures often occur when trucks are not used for periods of time or when lifting systems consume too much energy from the battery.



“Since installing the SkelStart ESM we have had no starting problems whatsoever,” explains Priit Tamme, Fleet Manager for Mareen, a Baltic freight company. “The unit is particularly useful when the engine cannot be kept idling because of local restrictions and when the batteries have been drained from using the tail-lift.”



“Previously we were changing the batteries every two years but we expect much longer battery life using the SkelStart ESM. We are now looking at installing the technology across our fleet.”


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Ultracapacitors have proven to be a useful technology for heavy transportation and are used in a range of applications including regenerative braking in hybrid buses and trucks, cold starting of diesel engines for trucks and trains, and backup power for industrial machinery.