A European Union-funded research project on improving energy storage involving eight major participants including Volvo has developed “revolutionary” lightweight structural energy storage components that could be used in future electrified vehicles.
Components are molded from a material consisting of carbon fiber in a polymer resin, nano-structured batteries and super capacitors. The result, says Volvo, is an eco-friendly and cost-effective structure that stands to substantially cut vehicle weight and volume.
Volvo is already at work with an S80 that uses components made form the material that serve structural functions and replace a conventional battery at the same time. The company says that by completely substituting an electric car’s existing components with the new material, overall vehicle weight could be reduced by more than 15 percent.
“The way it works is reinforced carbon fibers sandwich the new battery and are molded and formed to fit around the car’s frame such as door panels, the trunk lid and wheel bowl,” said the company in a statement.
Volvo further described the process that has led to its special trunk lid and a plenum cover on its experimental S80:
“The carbon fiber laminate is first layered, shaped and then cured in an oven to set and harden,” said the company. “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.”
Recharging can come by way of regenerative braking or plugging into the grid. Energy is then transferred to an electric motor which is discharged as it is used around the car.
Volvo says its “boot lid” that’s lighter and saves volume and weight is a “functioning electrically powered storage component and has the potential to replace the standard batteries seen in today’s cars.”
Similarly, the plenum is being used in place of the “rally bar,” a sturdy structural piece that stabilizes the car in the front, and the start-stop battery.
“This saves more than 50 percent in weight and is powerful enough to supply energy to the car’s 12-volt system,” said Volvo.
The project promises to “makes conventional batteries a thing of the past” and was led by the Imperial College London.
Other participants are Swerea Sicomp AB, Sweden, Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung BAM, Germany, ETC Battery and FuelCells, Sweden, Inasco, Greece, Chalmers (Swedish Hybrid Centre), Sweden, Cytec Industries (prev UMECO/ACG), United Kingdom, and Nanocyl, NCYL, Belgium.