It is one of the most common problems facing hybrid and electrical car manufactures: heavy batteries adding to the weight and bulk to a vehicle’s design but now Volvo is trying to address the problem. Partnering up on a material development project conducted by Imperial college of London, Volvo hopes to use a whole car’s body as a rechargeable battery. It is visualizing cars with the ability to store braking energy when you drive and plug in to be charged overnight.
To push this idea into a reality, Imperial College developed a composite blend of fibers and polymer resin which can store and charge more batteries faster than conventional batteries. The material is extremely strong and pliant, that means it could change shapes in building the battery into the car’s body. If the replacement of car steel panels for the new material is successful, a car weight could be greatly reduced by 15%.
The only thing is that the car’s spare wheel recess will be needed to convert into a composite battery. “This is a relatively large structure that is easy to replace. Not sufficiently large to power the entire car, but enough to switch the engine off and on when the car is at a standstill, for instance at traffic lights,” says Per-Ivar Sellergren, a development engineer at the Volvo Cars Material Centre. “Our role is to contribute expertise on how this technology can be integrated in the future and to input ideas about the advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and user-friendliness.”
It is estimated that this project will continue for 3 years. For now, Volvo is focusing on developing the composite material so it will be able to store more energy, additionally, studying ways to produce the material in a more massive scale. It is only in the final stage where the battery will be fitted into a car.
Immense interest is demonstrated toward this project, currently. Besides charging cars, there are many other application areas of this composite material: Mobile phones could be as slim as credit cards and laptops will go on for a longer period of time without having to be charged. There is definitely an optimistic outlook for future rechargeable Volvo cars.
For more information, please see: Volvo’s press release