Back to the Future may have been right: The cars of tomorrow will be powered by capacitors (they will not, presumably, be able to time-travel).

At least, that’s what Tesla CEO Elon Musk said at yesterday’s Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, unleashing a torrent of speculation that the electric car company may be researching capacitor storage.

Capacitors are electric devices that can store charges temporarily. They can handle a greater number of charge cycles than batteries, and can provide quick jolts of energy. If Tesla could find a way to use them in conjunction with—and eventually in place of—their current lithium-ion batteries, electric cars could travel greater distances before needing to be recharged.

Interestingly, Musk originally came to California to study high-energy-density capacitor physics at Stanford. “I did that for a laugh,” he said at the conference.

After being enrolled for a few days, he dropped out of Stanford to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. And if Tesla’s able to push the state of the art in energy storage forward, he may well have the last laugh.

[Image by Flickr/]

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