Car Body of the Future Could be a Giant Battery

Volvo may have solved the problem of heavy and bulky batteries in hybrid and electric cars by creating car components that are actually batteries. A new electric version of Volvo’s S80 sedan has a trunk lid, door panel, and hood that are actually rechargeable batteries.

The 2014 Volvo 680 sedan at a recent car show

The 2014 Volvo 680 sedan at a recent car show

The components are made of layers of polymer-infused fiber that is actually rechargeable like a battery. The panels are made by using a nanomaterial that replaces the traditional steel body components.

Volvo’s engineers estimate that they could reduce the weight of the average electric car by 15% by using this technology. That will also allow for more trunk space, yet give the driver a car with an electric charge that is capable of powering the car for a 130-kilometer (or 81-mile) drive.

The approach isn’t without its challenges though. Engineers have to figure out how to make the new components as strong as steel. There are also safety challenges, including the effect of wrecks on the new panels.

Experts think that the new technology will be useful on regular vehicles as well. It could make the heavy car battery in your vehicle a thing of the past. The standard car battery weighs between 45-65 pounds. Replacing it with carbon fiber could leave more space for more power in the engine compartment. Reducing the weight would increase fuel mileage and leave room for more storage space or special features.

More Power and More Technology

Another big advantage is that carbon fiber batteries could provide more electricity to power more electronics in cars. Today’s drivers are demanding more and more electronic features in their vehicles, which can increase the need for electricity.

Yet another advantage of this technology would be a wider usage of electric drive, including four-wheel drive systems. That could make such vehicles cheaper because there would be fewer mechanical parts.

The new panels could also be used to increase the range of electric cars by making more battery storage available. Numerous concerns, such as safety, will have to be addressed before the technology is widely adapted, media reports indicate.


Another view of the Volvo 680 Sedan for 2014

Another view of the Volvo 680 Sedan for 2014

The cost of the carbon fiber has to be reduced as well. Currently, it’s mostly used in high-end supercars, such as Lamborghinis, Paganis, and McLarens. Methods of cheaply manufacturing the carbon fiber panels will have to be made before the new technology becomes widely available.

It looks like the car of the future may not have a battery. Instead, the car itself could be the battery if Volvo’s new technology works out.
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