It makes sense to use batteries as body panels in electric cars, since they contribute half of the overall weight. Although, batteries are still far too rectangular to merge with flowing lines despite progress in 3D printing. Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have turned the paradigm around by finding ways of modifying auto body panels into batteries.
Modifying Auto Body Panels is Not New News
The idea of modifying auto body panels as batteries to create structural elements in airplanes and autos has been around for a while. Potential benefits include improved battery capacity and lighter vehicles consuming less energy.
However, earlier prototypes proved unsuccessful both in terms of energy storage and panel structural strength. Now finally a Chalmers University lead researcher says “carbon fiber can be used for harvesting kinetic energy. And for sensors or conductors of both energy and data. If all these functions were part of a car or aircraft body, this could reduce the weight by up to 50 percent.”
A Vision Where a Large Part of a Vehicle is Batteries
Carbon Fiber Strength Versus Electrochemical Properties
Researchers at Chalmers University uncovered an interesting dynamic. The found an inverse relationship between structural strength and electrochemical potential. They believe “The key is to optimize vehicles at system level, by balancing weight, strength, stiffness and electro-chemical properties.”
This is a departure from traditional automotive thinking that optimizes individual components. Instead, their approach involves setting off electrochemical gains against structural strength in order to obtain the optimum balance when modifying auto body panels as batteries. We’ll leave the last word to Leif Asp, a member of the research team.
“Structural batteries may perhaps not become as efficient as traditional batteries. But since they have a structural load-bearing capability, substantial gains can be made at the system level. Also, the lower energy density of structural batteries would make them safer than standard batteries. Especially as they would also not contain any volatile substances …”
Preview Image: Fabric Made of Woven Carbon Filaments