Volvo shows car body panels that serve as batteries

17 Oct, 2013 11:34am

EU-funded Volvo project develops composite nanomaterial to transform a car’s bodywork into batteries

Volvo has announced that it has successfully co-developed a carbon fibre material that can store electricity.

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The material is made from very strong, thin layers of carbon fibres blended with a polymer resin, with nano-structured batteries and supercapacitors sandwiched in between.

It can be used to replace a car’s conventional metal bodywork, including the doors, roof and bonnet, with Volvo claiming the expected electric range the panels could power would be 80 miles.

This new material can be recharged by regenerative braking, and by plugging the car in to the mains.

Volvo claims that the new material recharges and stores energy faster than current lithium-ion batteries, but doesn’t suffer from degradation as quickly as standard batteries because there is no chemical process involved in charging and discharging them.

To prove the concept, Volvo has built an S80 prototype with two parts made from the new material.

The car features a new bootlid that can store enough power to replace a car’s standard battery, and weighs less than the standard item.

Under the bonnet, the scuttle and strut brace are formed from the new material, too, adding stiffness to the car’s front end, while also being able to store enough power to replace the smaller battery that powers the S80’s stop-start system.

Volvo also claims that the material would cut weight by 15 per cent, if the doors, roof and bonnet were made from the new material. At present, the lightest S80 tips the scales at 1,585kg, so using Volvo’s estimate, this could fall to at least 1,347kg if the new material was used.

The project to develop the material began in 2010 and involves nine European companies and institutes, including Volvo and Imperial College London.