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Maxwell Engine Start Module

Work applications like delivery trucks and warehouse forklifts serve different purposes, but they both have one critical function in common: Reliability to their operators. If a truck doesn’t start or a forklift loses battery power mid-operation, jobs are delayed. For that reason, manufacturers choose ultracapacitors (sometimes called supercapacitors) to provide the dependable power needed for these types of applications.


To understand the benefits of ultracapacitors, it’s important to understand their advantages. While it’s true that they are an energy storage and power delivery solution, they are not batteries. These energy storage devices offer higher power density than batteries, enabling them to recharge nearly instantaneously.
Because of this capability, they complement primary energy sources, including batteries and fuel cells, which cannot repeatedly provide quick bursts of power. Due to their many benefits, ultracapacitors continue to be used in thousands of different applications and are being considered in an equally diverse range of future applications. Specifically, this technology can be used to provide reliable energy storage and power in a variety of vocational and urban applications, including forklifts and pickup and delivery vehicles.


Fleet vehicles may often contend with engine-start failure resulting from battery depletion. For trucks that have multiple batteries for starting, an ultracapacitor-based engine starting solution can replace one of the batteries. This provides a number of advantages to the vehicles, including more reliable starting in cold temperatures and extended battery life.
By leveraging this energy storage and power delivery technology, drivers remain on schedule and maintenance costs related to jump-starts are reduced. Ultracapacitors can also be used in a hybrid system, during which braking energy is captured. This improves fuel economy, reduces emissions, and improves brake wear. Ultracapacitors are ideally suited for these applications because of their high power efficiency and long cycle life.


For fleets in the municipality, utility, or construction sectors, application-specific equipment is generally included in shop maintenance. Industrial vehicles can experience limited engine starting operability in the face of extreme temperatures and infrequent starting. Relying on ultracapacitor-based engine starting enables these machines to start properly, even in arctic temperatures.


It’s not unheard of to keep a forklift around the shop for transporting decommissioned engines or transmissions for export. Since, hopefully, engine or transmission replacement doesn’t happen frequently, the forklift may lose its charge by the time you need it. Many forklift manufacturers are employing ultracapacitors to provide lift to electric forklifts, which eases the stress on the battery pack that powers the forklift.
In large warehouse operations, forklift batteries have severe limitations—it is not uncommon for an operator to deplete a battery to a level that is insufficient to power the forklift. This depletion requires a battery swap mid-shift, causing the job to be put on hold. Because ultracapacitors can increase the power density of an energy source, they are an ideal solution for forklifts.
By substituting the conventional battery power train with this technology, operators experience increased productivity with fast refueling, extended run time, reduced maintenance, and reduced infrastructure costs.


While operators can’t control every situation, they can smooth operations by choosing equipment that uses ultracapacitors. These energy storage devices are key to keeping jobs on schedule, whether they are located in the warehouse or on the road.
To make up for limited battery performance, they deliver quick bursts of energy during periods of peak power demand. They then quickly store this energy and capture excess power that would otherwise be lost. To keep jobsites running efficiently, ultracapacitors are a reliable and long-lasting solution.


Mark Burnside joined Maxwell Technologies in 2008 as senior manager of program management, responsible for managing cross-functional teams in the development of ultracapacitor products from concept through production release. He contributed to the development of the Maxwell Engine Start Module (ESM) product from its inception and was promoted to senior product manager, engine starting, in 2013. Throughout his 40-year career, he has held engineering management, program management, and marketing management positions for several leading commercial high-tech companies.


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