A new material could form both the battery and the body of next generation electric vehicles, say scientists at Imperial College. The composite is strong enough to be used as a bonnet or a door, while also storing and discharging electricity to power the wheels.
Current electric cars are limited to a range of a few hundred miles before they need recharging, as the heavy batteries must be small enough to keep the vehicle’s weight down. The new material could increase a car’s range without making it heavier, allowing them to be used on cross-country trips rather than being constrained to urban use.
It would also reduce the need for internal wiring, as electronic gadgets such as built-in sat nav could be powered directly from the bodywork, and may eventually find use in other electronics, according to project leader Dr Emile Greenhalgh:
“You might have a mobile phone that is as thin as a credit card because it no longer needs a bulky battery, or a laptop that can draw energy from its casing so it can run for a longer time without recharging.
“We’re at the first stage of this project and there is a long way to go, but we think our composite material shows real promise.”
The composite is made of carbon and glass fibers embedded in a polymer resin. The energy storing process isn’t reliant on chemicals, so works faster than a normal battery and is slower to degrade.
The team at Imperial are working with Volvo to try out the new technology. The first prototype will replace part of the boot where the spare tire is stored, known as the wheel well, with a piece made from the advanced material. Volvo say this could reduce the weight of their cars by up to 15%.