At Volvo, the body becomes the battery


    No more bulky batteries for electric cars: Volvo is participating in a research project aiming at integrating the battery into the body panels. This does not only mean squeezing the energy storage into narrow body cavities. The project aims higher.
    In a materials development project launched by the London Imperial College, nine European companies and institutes are developing carbon fibres and polymer resin that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries are able to do. Volvo is the only car manufacturer participating in the project funded in part by the European Union. 
    The material to be developed will be extremely strong and pliant. Thus, it can be shaped for use in building a vehicle’s body panels. It also will be much lighter than today’s batteries. According to Volvo, a car’s weight could be reduced by as much as 15 percent if steel body panels would be replaced with the new material.
    The project will continue for three years. In the first stage, work focuses both on developing the composite material so it can store more energy and on studying ways of producing the material on an industrial scale. 
    Only in the final stage will the battery be fitted to a car. Initially, the car’s spare wheel recess will be used to accommodate 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,” explained Per-Ivar Sellergren, development engineer at the Volvo Cars Materials Centre. 
    If the project is successful, there are many possible application areas beyond the automotive sector . For instance, mobile phones will be able to be as slim as credit cards and laptops will manage longer without needing to be recharged, the researchers suggest. 
    For more information, visit the research project website: