Ultracapacitors are not new; they were invented in the late 1950s by General Electric. The technology was eventually commercialised by NEC of Japan in 1978, where it was used as a backup power device for computers.
Due to an increased focus on cleaner power sources at the turn of this century, there have been several attempts to commercialise the technology as an energy storage device on a wider scale, but this has had somewhat limited success. Early innovations included cell-based ultracapacitors to power wristwatches and other micro electric items, eventually graduating to powering applications in hybrid electric vehicles (HEV). Industry attention, however, has remained on existing conventional technologies such as batteries and innovations focusing on new battery chemistries such as lithium-ion.
However, advances in new materials and manufacturing technologies in the late 20th and early 21st centuries have led to significant increases in ultracapacitor performance and lower costs. Coupled with an ever-increasing emphasis on climate change and sustainability, there is a strong case for ultracapacitors to serve as a key technology for both environmental and cost reasons.