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Electric vehicles (EVs) with zero carbon emission have earned commendations from those eco-conscious.  However, EVs with lithium-ion battery usually need one to two hours to be fully charged, and not everyone can afford the time.  In fact, Prof. Eric Ka-wai Cheng, Department of Electrical Engineering, and his research team successfully developed a slim supercapacitor module that fits almost anywhere in the auto body, such as the roof, the trunk lid and the doors.  Not only does it take just minutes to charge, but also lasts longer and does the ecosystem less harm.  After winning a gold prize and a special merit award at the Seoul International Invention Fair 2015, the technology attracted widespread attention from enterprises, including Jupiter Electric Vehicle Industries Ltd. (“Jupiter”).  Through PolyU’s consultancy services, the company engaged Prof. Cheng and his team in a research project to further explore how to enhance EVs with supercapacitors and wireless charging.  The research findings provided product development solutions with great reference value for Jupiter.

Best of both worlds

Generally speaking, a car with only supercapacitors can travel for 30 km at most.  To enable popularization of EVs, the issue of limited range must be addressed.  Prof. Cheng thus suggested a supercapacitor-battery hybrid system.  “It gets the best of both worlds.  Supercapacitors release a huge electric current instantly to give more power and traction when a car starts.  Lithium-ion battery has a bigger capacity and lets the car go further, say, 200 to 300 km,” he said.  Owners may even pick from the various options according to their needs.  For instance, cars that drive on fixed routes in the city may rely mostly on supercapacitors.  Cars that travel long distances yet without a known route should opt for a model with more battery storage.

The team’s wireless fast charging solution is based on electromagnetic induction.  Conventionally, a single coil in the charging base and another one under the vehicle are used for wireless charging.  But those two coils must be precisely aligned to reduce the loss of electromagnetic energy.  Therefore, the research team employed a matrix of magnetic core instead – meaning the charging base and the bottom of the car are covered in an array of small coils.  The car does not need to be perfectly aligned with the charger for efficient charging that way.  In future, such charging coils can be buried underground in parking spaces, traffic light junctions, or on highways, so that EVs can be charged anywhere, anytime, and even while travelling.  In addition, they are less prone to damage by weather or interference by human activities.  Taking Prof. Cheng’s advice, Jupiter is working on their hybrid EV prototypes and planning to launch them in the United States in the near future.

R&D Cash Rebate Scheme

R&D is the first step of innovation and is crucial to a company’s vision and strategic development.  Mr Kwai-sun Siu, CEO of Jupiter, said, “We strongly believe environment protection is one of the main drivers of global advancement, and that the EV market will thrive and prosper eventually.  Witnessing the rapid technological growth in the Chinese Mainland, we recognized the importance of leading technologies in the EV industry.  With a modest in-house research team, it is difficult for our company to keep up with the rapid development.  PolyU’s advanced technologies and research talents are perfect for bridging the gap.  They truly helped us in enhancing the competitive edges and technical performances of our existing products, and in developing new products.”

Not every enterprise can afford a strong in-house research team.  But limited resources should never be the reason to stop being creative.  PolyU’s consultancy services facilitates commercialization of R&D results, providing not only professional and technical support, but also well-equipped laboratories and research facilities.  Our industry partners can thus reap enormous savings.

To bring down consultancy fees, enterprises may consider the Research and Development Cash Rebate Scheme under Innovation and Technology Commission.  Qualified applicants are entitled to a cash rebate equivalent to 40% of R&D expenditure.  Jupiter is among the satisfied beneficiaries of the scheme.  “The scheme substantially reduced the cost of the project.  I hope more companies will benefit from it and join us in expediting economic development with advanced technologies,” remarked Mr Siu.  Jupiter will further collaborate with Prof. Cheng’s team on a motor-driven Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), and will apply for cash rebate again for that project.

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