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Batteryless, Environmentally Friendly Capacitor Replaces Car Battery

For several weeks Larry Schlussler at Sun Frost has been driving his 1982 Ford truck without a starting battery. The battery was removed and replaced by a large capacitor. The 150 farad capacitor is about 1000 times larger than the large capacitor commonly encountered in devices. The energy storage device is capable of storing enough energy to start a very large truck engine. What is needed to start an engine is actually not a large amount of energy but a short burst of power. A capacitor can supply an even larger burst of power than a starting battery. An additional advantage of a capacitor as a starting device is that its output is not affected as much as a starting battery’s during cold weather. The capacitor is about the same size as a starting battery.

If your vehicle contains electronic gadgets which need to run when the car is turned off a small 12v rechargeable battery in parallel with the capacitor could provide this capability. The 150 farad capacitor used in the Ford was manufactured by the Russian military and is at least an order of magnitude larger than any off the shelf capacitors available in the U.S. The capacitor can store enough energy for several starting attempts. After the engine is running the capacitor is charged by the alternator. The engine in the 1982 Ford required less than one watt hour (0.001 KWH) to turn over.

If the lights are left on and the capacitor is discharged the capacitor can be recharged with a series of 9 D cell flash light batteries. The capacitor could also be recharged with a small hand-powered generator or by jump starting. Recharging the capacitor is easy because of the relatively small amount of energy it stores in comparison to a car battery. The capacitor does self-discharge after several days, however, it is easy to keep fully charged with a very small solar panel (about six inches square) even when parked in the shade.

A major advantage of the capacitor as a starting device is its potentially long life and its use of more environmentally benign materials as the capacitor contains no lead. The principal ingredients inside the steel case of the capacitor are activated carbon and potassium hydroxide. This mixture could be easily neutralized by a weak acid such as vinegar.

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