Volvo Working on Storing Energy in a Car's Body Panels

volvo battery body panels image

"Imagine a car whose body also serves as a rechargeable battery."

One of the main challenges with electric cars is that batteries are bulky and heavy. Volvo is trying to solve that problem by turning a car's body panels into an energy storage device, an idea that, if feasible, would kill two birds with one stone by freeing up space inside the car and making it relatively lighter.
volvo logo image
Image: Volvo

Volvo writes:

Imagine a car whose body also serves as a rechargeable battery. A battery that stores braking energy while you drive and that also stores energy when you plug in the car overnight to recharge. At the moment this is just a fascinating idea, but tests are currently under way to see if the vision can be transformed into reality. Volvo Cars is one out of nine participants in an international materials development project. [...]

With the help of 35 million SEK (approx. 3.5 million EURO) in financial support from the European Union (EU), a composite blend of carbon fibres and polymer resin is being developed that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries can. At the same time, the material is extremely strong and pliant, which means it can be shaped for use in building the car's body panels. According to calculations, the car's weight could be cut by as much as 15 percent if steel body panels were replaced with the new material.

This is really interesting, and shows the new kind of thinking that we need to develop with electric cars, because electricity isn't like liquid fuel, it can be stored in a more distributed fashion.

Since they're working with carbon fibers, they're probably trying to make some sort of giant hypercapacitor. The main challenges will no doubt be to make it safe and inexpensive, because you really don't want all that energy to be unsafely discharged in case of accident, and at current prices, making such a huge mass of hypercapacitors would be prohibitively expensive.

But at the rate at which technology is progressing, who knows what will be possible in 10-15 years. Maybe one days most vehicles will store energy in structural elements, possibly along with more traditional battery packs for maximum range. In fact, combining chemical batteries with hypercapacitors might give us the best of both worlds; really fast charging and discharging, combined with a long electric range.

Via Volvo, ABG

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