Volvo has developed a new system for storing electrical energy in cars which could see us kiss goodbye to heavy batteries.
As part of an EU-funded research project with nine other major participants, the Swedish carmaker has developed new energy storage components made from carbon fibres, nano-structured batteries and super capacitors which would offer lighter energy storage and take up much less space than conventional battery systems.
In a three year research project, Volvo-the only participating carmaker-succeeded in developing body panels and structural components of the car to act as battery storage. Using a combination of carbon fibres and polymer resin, the new batteries are sandwiched into the nanomaterial and are then moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame such as the door panels, the boot lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space.
The material is recharged and energised by brake energy regeneration or by plugging into a mains electrical grid. The energy then transfers to the electric motor to be used to propel the car forward. The breakthrough showed that this material not only charges and stores energy faster than conventional batteries can, but that it is also strong and pliant.
Using a Volvo S80 as a experimental car, Volvo created two components for testing and development; a boot lid and a plenum cover. Despite being lighter than a conventional boot lid, the new lid proved fully functional as a storage component and is believed to have the potential to replace the standard batteries seen in today’s cars.
The new plenum demonstrates that it can also replace both the rally bar, a strong structural piece that stabilises the car in the front, and the start-stop battery. This saves more than 50 per cent in weight and is powerful enough to supply energy to the car’s 12 Volt system
Overall the components could cut the weight of an electric car by 15 per cent, while delivering more efficient energy storage and proving cost-effective to produce.
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