Big, heavy, expensive batteries are one of the main bottlenecks preventing mass adoption of electric vehicles, as whole cars have to be designed around the bulky batteries. Volvo may have developed a solution, however, by integrating the batteries themselves into specially-formed carbon-fiber body panels. Clever, but certainly not cheap.
Working with independent research groups, Volvo is exploring the possibility of using nano-structured batteries and supercapacitors integrated into carbon-fiber body panels. Research is headed by the Imperial College of London, which makes me wonder if British EV proponent Lord Drayson (who is running a similar body panel battery research experiment) is somehow involved.
After three years, researchers have built a functioning truck lid and engine cover battery, which feature teeny-tiny nano batteries and supercapacitors sandwiched between two layers of carbon fiber. These battery body panels not only eliminate the need for bulky batteries, but can also be recharged and discharged much faster. The panels are also more energy dense, cost-effective, and eco-friendly than traditional batteries, though cost-effective doesn’t necessarily mean “cheap”.
The new body panels are also stiffer too, meaning conventional combustion engine cars can also benefit from the technology. According to researchers the new body panels are stiff enough to replace the sway bars in most cars, while storing enough energy to stand in for the traditional lead-acid battery used to start most vehicles.
The potential for this technology is almost impossible to comprehend, as it could completely alter the structure and design of almost every vehicle. This could be the battery breakthrough we’ve been waiting for.