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Volvo tech: End of car battery?

2013-10-18 14:01

VOLVO’S FUTURE TECH: Volvo is testing a new boot lid which the automaker claims “is a functional powered storage component.” Image: VOLVO

Is this the end of the road for the conventional car battery? A Volvo breakthrough might have kicked it into history. Here's how...

Volvo, in partnership with academic institutions, has developed a revolutionary concept for lightweight energy storage components that could improve the energy usage of future electric vehicles and kick the conventional car battery into the scrap heap.

The material, consisting of carbon-fibred, nano-structured batteries and super-capacitors, offers lighter energy storage that requires less space, is cost effective and eco-friendly.

FEASIBLE SOLUTION

The project, funded by the European Union, included Imperial College London as the academic lead partner along with eight other major participants. Volvo was the only automaker involved.

Gallery: Volvo's new battery tech

Teams identified created a feasible solution to the heavy weight, large size and high costs associated with battery packs for current hybrids and electric vehicles. The project took 42 months and is now realised in the form of panels within a Volvo S80 test vehicle.

Using a combination of carbon fibre and a polymer resin, the team created "a very advanced nano-material" and structural super-capacitors. The materials sandwich the new battery and are moulded to fit around the vehicle's frame, such as the door panels, boot lid and wheel arches.

According to Volvo: "The carbon-fibre laminate is first layered, shaped and cured in an oven. The super-capacitors are integrated within the component skin. This material can then be used around the vehicle, replacing existing components, to store and charge energy.

"The material is recharged and energised by the use of brake energy regeneration in the car or by plugging in to an electrical grid. It then transfers the energy to the electric motor."

The material not only charges and stores power faster than conventional batteries it's also "strong and pliant".

BATTERY BOOT-LID?

Volvo hopes to apply the new technology to its models through two components - boot lid and bonnet/engine cover.

The boot lid, currently being tested in an S80, is "a functional powered storage component" and has the potential to replace standard batteries. It's lighter than a standard boot lid, saving on both volume and weight.

The new engine cover can replace both the rally bar (used to stabilise the car) and the stop/start battery. According to the automaker: "This saves more than 50% in weight and is powerful enough to supply energy to the car’s 12V system."

It's believed the substitution of an electric car’s existing components with the new material could cut the overall weight by more than 15%. This is not only cost-effective but would also reduce the impact on the environment.
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