As battery manufacturers race to produce more efficient lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, some scientists are looking to make the cars themselves a power source. Researchers are currently developing a new material that can store and release electrical energy like a battery. Once perfected, scientists hope the substance will replace standard car bodies, making vehicles up to 15 percent lighter and significantly extending the range of electric vehicles.

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The miracle material is part of a $4.5 million project at London’s Imperial College. The strong yet lightweight substance charges much like a battery, storing energy and releasing it when necessary. Researchers say that because the material is durable, it can be used to replace metal car parts like the wheel well and roof. That way, the car body itself could serve as an extra source of energy for electronics like GPS units or replace the car’s battery entirely.

Scientists say they are developing the material to save weight and volume in vehicles. Replacing metal parts with the lightweight substance could reduce cars’ weights by about 15 percent and create a roomier ride for passengers. But the technology could boost electric vehicle development, too. By pairing lithium-ion batteries with car bodies that produce power (or just relying on the bodies themselves), EVs will be able to drive further on a single charge, making them more attractive to drivers. With any luck, this substance will add even more incentive for people to ditch their gas guzzlers in favor of eco-friendly EVs.

Scientists say the tech is still pretty far from commercialization, but once it is ready, it could also work in aircraft or in mobile devices like laptops and cell phones. For a sneak peek at how the material works, check out the video below.

+ Imperial College

Via Engadget