Seems hybrid technology is showing up everywhere nowadays, and the latest appearance is in Geneva, Switzerland where railway researchers are testing the use of supercapacitors as onboard tram batteries.

Supercapacitors have the ability to capture and store energy, and Geneva’s tram operator TPG is testing a 1 ton prototype unit designed to recover the energy generated by its trams when they brake. It aims to use this energy to power the tram for short distances (at least a quarter mile) without the need for a connection to an external power source. Researchers say that this technology is more effective than conventional batteries at capturing and releasing the energy generated during braking.

TPG has had the supercapacitor – which is capable of storing the kinetic energy equivalent of an empty tram moving at nearly 35 miles per hour – installed on the roof of one of 32 new trams being delivered by manufacturer Stadler Rail. If testing is successful, it plans on adding supercapacitors to the remaining 31 trams scheduled for delivery.

The supercapacitor in this case operates on the same principle that a Toyota Prius does, which charges its own batteries using the energy created whenever a driver presses on the brake. Maybe we will see future Prius models with supercapacitors in place of the expensive battery packs it currently uses? That would surely bring the cost of a new hybrid car down to more affordable levels, which would spur more consumers to pick one up next time they are in the market for a new automobile.

[via Railway Gazette]

Image Credit: trams aux fils/Flickr