Supercapacitors have developed rapidly in China over the past decade. According to statistics from the China Supercapacitor Industry Alliance (CSIA), the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of China’s supercapacitor market reached 35% between 2015 and 2020 (1). Cao Gaoping, a researcher at the People’s Liberation Army Chemical Defense Institute and a consultant to the CSIA, estimated that by 2020, China’s supercapacitor market would be worth nearly 14 billion yuan (about €1.73 billion) (2), placing China in third place in terms of global market volume (3).
These high growth rates are supported by the Chinese government’s plans for new energy. Supercapacitors have been explicitly mentioned in policy publications since 2001 (4). Supercapacitors were included in the 863 Major Automotive Project (5). The 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) mentions development of nanomaterials for supercapacitor electrodes (6). More recently, the project “Supercapacitor-based energy storage system and supercapacitor-based application” developed by Ma Zifeng, a professor from Shanghai Jiaotong University, was accepted by the scientific committee of the 973 programme in 2018 (7).
With policy support, many innovation players have positioned themselves in the field (8). There are large players such as the state-owned CRRC (China Railroad Rolling Stock Corporation), Shanghai Aowei, Nantong Jianghai, and Jinzhou Kaimei. There are new players in supercapacitor manufacturing for example, Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology Group, Beihai Sence Carbon Materials Technology and Tianjin Plannano Energy Technologies. Research institutes and universities such as Jiangsu University, Donghua University, South Central University, and Tsinghua University are involved in innovation in this field via patent filing, among other things. 9 of the top 10 supercapacitor patent filers in China between 2000 and 2018 are academic players.
Most of the players are located in the most developed regions of China: Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and the provinces of Guangdong and Jiangsu. There are public-private partnerships, such as the cooperation between the Department of Chemical Engineering of Tianjin University and Ningbo CRRC New Energy Technology (9). The China Supercapacitor Industry Alliance (CSIA), under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), was established in December 2016 to provide a platform for exchanges and joint development for players in the field in China (10). To date, the platform has 176 members including the aforementioned players.
In terms of applications, transportation is among the main applications of supercapacitors. In Shanghai, 61 buses equipped with supercapacitors were put into service during the 2010 World Expo under the theme “Better City, Better Life” (11). The supercapacitor bus lines No. 11 and No. 26, which will be put into service in 2019, can reach a range of 30 km in just a few minutes of charging (12), compared with the range of 3 to 6 km for the first buses in 2010. In this segment, Shanghai Aowei is the leader (13). There is also the state-owned company CRRC, which specializes in transportation. The latter developed China’s first modern supercapacitor streetcar in 2016 in Zhuzhou, Hunan province, and then commercialized in the cities of Guangzhou (Canton) and Huai’an (14). Supercapacitor buses manufactured in China are also exported to other countries such as Russia, Israel, and Bulgaria (15).
China was a late entrant to the supercapacitor market, after the leaders in the field such as the United States, Japan, Russia, France, South Korea, and Switzerland. However, thanks to political support and research efforts, it is gradually approaching the state of the art. China has built an ecosystem by fostering the emergence of national and even international players.