It may look like any other car, but the battery-powered vehicle in Emile Greenhalgh’s laboratory could just steer us towards the future of electric transportation. One of the most salient issues in electric car development is that of range: typical batteries only provide enough power for 100 miles of driving. The technology that Dr. Greenhalgh has been developing at Imperial College London tackles this obstacle not by enlarging the battery, but by storing electricity in the body components of the car – the roof, the hood, the trunk lid can all be used to help propel the car forward over greater distances.
Photo © Volvo
According to Dr. Greenhalgh, the body components currently provide only a modest amount of energy. However they can provide the charge for tasks such as switching the engine on and off at traffic lights, smoothing the demand placed on the battery. The material used to store the electricity is a carbon fiber-reinforced composite – essentially a light, strong, and rigid plastic. The resin used in binding the fibers is intertwined with lithium ions, transforming the fibers into conductive electrodes.
Using these innovative (and prohibitively expensive) body components in electric cars can make them lighter while also providing additional electricity, significantly extend their driving range. Per-Ivar Sellergren, an engineer at the Volvo Cars Materials Center, says that if future composite battery structures store energy as efficiently as lithium-ion batteries, then a car’s roof, hood, and trunk alone could power an electric vehicle for 80 miles.
Via New York Times