Volvo Gets Clever: Body Panels as Batteries

They say that when you see a truly great idea, it’s often so obvious that your first reaction is “Why didn’t I think of that!?”

Well, Volvo thought of it.  The short version of “it” is that Volvo has found a way to shape batteries into body panels for a car, replacing the hood, doors, trunk, and roof with batteries… but there is much more to it than that.

One of the biggest problems facing electric vehicle designers is packaging.  To put it another way, “Where do you put the batteries?”… and it’s not an easy question to answer, especially when converting ICE chassis to EV duty (as with Volvo’s previous EV concept, below).

Consider:  more batteries take up space and add weight.  Added weight reduces range and performance, but reducing the number of batteries also reduces range, making the entire system little more than a series of compromises.

Volvo’s newest nano-technology batteries, however, are made from ultralight carbon fibers… and (if they work) might change all that.  Volvo describes the revolutionary new material, saying 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 Volvo, automotive chassis made from this new material will weigh up to 15% less than chassis made from conventional steel, leading to electric cars that could weigh LESS than ICE cars, eliminating many (if not all) of the trade-offs inherent in EV design.

Volvo estimates that a car with only the panels described above as batteries would have an electric range of up to 80 miles, but that the material is still in testing phases… However, they do promise a running prototype soon.

Check out the next page for the official press release.

SOURCE:  Volvo Cars.

 

Jo Borrás

I've been in the auto industry 1997, and write for a number of blogs in the IM network. You can also find me on Twitter, at my Volvo fansite, or chasing my kids around Oak Park, IL.