Volvo makes conventional batteries a thing of the past

Volvo_battery-12Let’s face it. Fully-electric cars will come into the mainstream eventually. While it’s not entirely practical on a mass scale yet, electric cars are more efficient, and the energy can come from many sources instead of petroleum-based products. The latter of which is crucial to our energy independence. Aside from the issue of a lack of infrastructure, the biggest problem with electric cars is the size, weight, and placement of the battery. Tesla has arrived at a pretty good solution for placement, but the 85kWh battery in the Model S weighs approximately 1300 lbs.

Volvo, along with Imperial College London, and 7 other organizations have been conducting research over the last 3.5 years for a solution to the problem of automotive battery size, weight and placement; To not only provide batteries with greater performance and capacity, but also to package them in a way which is unobtrusive to the overall packaging of the vehicle and make more efficient use of space. They have done this by integrating batteries into carbon fiber body panels. They have replaced the trunk lid of an S80 with their new carbon fiber trunk lid, and has the potential to replace the car battery you’d normally find under the hood. They have also created a new front windshield cowl which not only contains batteries, but it also a structural element which is lighter and stiffer than the one it replaces.

While these findings are seemingly incremental, they represent the potential for a paradigm shift in the way manufacturers design and build cars, and the way we use them.

Let us know what you think!!

From the press release:

Volvo Car Group has developed a revolutionary concept for lightweight structural energy storage components that could improve the energy usage of future electrified vehicles. The material, consisting of carbon fibres, nano structured batteries and super capacitors, offers lighter energy storage that requires less space in the car, cost effective structure options and is eco-friendly.

The project, funded as part of a European Union research project, included Imperial College London as the academic lead partner along with eight other major participants. Volvo was the only car manufacturer in the project. The project team identified a feasible solution to the heavy weight, large size and high costs associated with the batteries seen in hybrids and electric cars today, whilst maintaining the efficient capacity of power and performance. The research project took place over 3.5 years and is now realised in the form of car panels within a Volvo S80 experimental car.

The breakthrough
The answer was found in the combination of carbon fibres and a polymer resin, creating a very advanced nanomaterial, and structural super capacitors. The reinforced carbon fibres sandwich the new battery and are moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame, such as the door panels, the boot lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space. The carbon fibre laminate is first layered, shaped and then cured in an oven to set and harden. 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 into a mains electrical grid. It then transfers the energy to the electric motor which is discharged as it is used around the car.

The breakthrough showed that this material not only charges and stores faster than conventional batteries can, but that it is also strong and pliant.

The results so far
Today, Volvo Car Group has evaluated the technology by creating two components for testing and development. These are a boot lid and a plenum cover, tested within the Volvo S80.

The boot lid is a functioning electrically powered storage component and has the potential to replace the standard batteries seen in today’s cars. It is lighter than a standard boot lid, saving on both volume and weight.

The new plenum demonstrates that it can also replace both the rally bar, a strong structural piece that stabilises the car in the front, and the start-stop battery. This saves more than 50% in weight and is powerful enough to supply energy to the car’s 12 Volt system

Volvo Car Group lead the wayt
Electrified cars play an important role in Volvo Car Group’s future product portfolio and the company will continue to find and develop innovative and advanced technical solutions for the cars of tomorrow.

List of participants
Imperial College London ICL United Kingdom (project leader)
Swerea Sicomp AB, Sweden
Volvo Car Group, 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
Nanocyl, NCYL, Belgium

About Jerry Horton 35 Articles
I'm not going to pretend someone is writing a bio for me. Here I am. For those who don't know, I play guitar in Papa Roach. Since before I started dreaming of being a rockstar, I was dreaming about cars. My dad made me this way. Before I was born, he had a green 1972 Camaro. He did autocross when I was too young to know what was going on, and when I got a little older, he built a VW Beetle by himself in the carport. We would go to drag races in that car, and he would take down Mustangs and Camaros, much to their astonishment and horror. He took me to Top Fuel drag races in Sonoma, local drags at Sacramento Raceway, and I loved it. I was hooked. When it came time for me to get a car, he asked me if I wanted something older that we could work on, or something newer that would be a little more reliable. I told him I'd like an older car, and he said he found a 62 Chevy Nova with a 350. I was obviously excited, and 2 days later, he told me he had reconsidered. He said it was too much power for me, and ended up getting me a 1987 Mustang. 4 cylinder. I was extremely disappointed, and didn't want to talk to him for a while, but in the end it was the right decision. I drove that thing like an idiot, and ended up getting in 5 accidents (One was my fault). Fast-forward to the year 2000, and our first major record blows up, which allows me to get my dream car. The Dodge Viper. At the time it came out, the Viper was viewed as the modern-day Cobra; a motor with wheels. It scared the crap out of me, but over the years, I was able to show it respect, and get a lot out of it. Now, here we are. I created DriveKulture initially because the guys in my band aren't car guys. I needed an outlet; a place to share my ideas and opinions about new cars, sports cars, and kustom cars (yes that's custom with a "K"). I now see DriveKulture as not only a place where my car friends and I can interact, but also as a place for education. For a long time, I had pre-conceived notions about certain cars, and couldn't understand why someone would want them. In reading articles and talking with owners, I can see that they have slightly different tastes than I do, but their passion for cars are the same. I want to expose people to different types of cars, and try and convey what makes these different kinds of cars great. Welcome to DriveKulture.

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