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Transportation Power Technology

Volvo Developing Nano-Battery Tech Built Into Car Body Panels 178

Posted by timothy
from the thinking-outside-the-boxy dept.
cartechboy writes "Electric vehicle batteries have three problems — they're big, heavy, and expensive. But what if you could shift EV batteries away from being big blocks under the car and engineer them into the car itself? Research groups at Imperial College London working with Volvo have spent three years developing a way to do exactly that. The researchers are storing energy in nano structure batteries woven into carbon fiber--which can then be formed into car body panels. These panel-style batteries charge and store energy faster than normal EV batteries, and they are also lighter and more eco-friendly. The research team has built a Volvo S80 prototype featuring the panels where the battery panel material has been used for the trunk lid. With the materials used on the doors, roof and hood, estimated range for a mid-size electric car is around 80 miles."
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Volvo Developing Nano-Battery Tech Built Into Car Body Panels

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  • Hazard (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:07PM (#45153709) Journal

    Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

    • Yeah, cost of repairing small damage just goes through the roof if you do this.
      • Re:Hazard (Score:5, Interesting)

        by alexander_686 (957440) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:39PM (#45154059)

        Well, let me ask you a slightly different question. How much more expensive would a trunk panel be if it were a battery?

        Cars are moving towards carbon fiber and other exotic materials today because of the reduction in weight and thus improvement in MPG. So let’s assume your car already had a fiber carbon trunk which is going to be expensive to repair. If the marginal cost to add the battery function is low then you would still be better off.

        • Re:Hazard (Score:5, Insightful)

          by P-niiice (1703362) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:42PM (#45154109)
          The cost will be marginal, but the price will not.
        • I'd like to think a positive for having expensive parts would be people might be a little more careful driving if they knew it would cost them $10,000 to replace a scratch on a door, but, seeing as how most people don't put that kind of value on their own lives, I guess that would be too much to ask.

          Also there are still those jerks that ram shopping carts into new cars in parking lots. I only had my new car for three months when I came out of the store to a huge dent in the back passenger side door. I was
          • by LoRdTAW (99712)

            Its wishful thinking if you think expensive parts will stop stupidity. If you are in an accident and a body panel costs ten grand who eats the cost? Why the insurance companies of course. The idiot driver doesn't have to worry about his ten grand door panel. In most states in the US you are required to have insurance except for Wisconsin and New Hampshire but they have stipulations regarding being able to pay for damages if you are at fault. So you are still left with shit drivers because the insurance comp

        • Ferrari's might be moving toward carbon fibre, but Volvo's haven't really made the transition yet. Outside of the highest performance cars you'll find the same steel as we've been using for 40 years. The increased cost of carbon has never really been worth it. Batteries might be, but that's still to be seen.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        having to replace something like the roof is nowadays easily enough to put the whole car on insurance sale.. that meaning that the cost of repair isn't worth it. it's a structural part and expensive to fix even if it isn't functioning as a battery.

        what I'm interested in, how long a range would you have if you just made 8cm thick bottom for the car out of the stuff?

        • Might be nice to protected the underside of your car as well. Here in Nova Scotia right on the Atlantic we get *a lot* of salt, a car in Nova Scotia will rust in five years what a car out west (say Alberta) will in 20 years. We've had undercoating every year and my seven year old car is still starting to look much more like it's 14.
      • Yeah, cost of repairing small damage just goes through the roof if you do this.

        So what happens if you put in flat rechargeable modules like the flat 6v batteries in Polaroid SX-70 film packs [time.com], in various places (upgraded of course), like attached to the back seat on the trunk side, or just use arrays of Li-ion batteries all over the place? Not embedded, as small modules that can be replaced as they fail?

        • They're still exposed to damage, and who will certify them safe after a wreck even if there isn't any visible damage?
    • by mark-t (151149)
      Carbon fibre batteries don't pose that kind of fire risk.
      • by ohieaux (2860669)
        What exactly are the failure modes of these batteries? If they can charge more quickly, then the assumption would be that they discharge more quickly.

        1) Failure due to short circuiting the capacitor via mechanical failure (accident)
        2) Failure due to normal wear.
        3) Failure due to material defects.
        4) Failure due to improper installation...

        Really, there are 100's of ways that the system could be compromised. Some may be mitigated with logic in the car to identify failing components. But, instantaneo
    • More like good bye after market vendors.

    • by yurtinus (1590157)
      Naysayers say Nay!
    • Re:Hazard (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beckett (27524) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:25PM (#45153893) Homepage Journal

      Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

      Do you walk around with a phone thinking "in my pocket, near my crotch is a continuing, unending fire risk that occasionally makes phone calls".

      A flaming car is an exceptional event, but say 'hello' to a rash of volvo body panel thefts!

      • Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

        Do you walk around with a phone thinking "in my pocket, near my crotch is a continuing, unending fire risk that occasionally makes phone calls".

        No, but we also don't stab screwdrivers through our cell phones while they are in our pockets.

        Try that for us and see if you have a positive result. Make sure you have a full charge first.

        • by grommit (97148)
          For the portion of the population that has a habit of stabbing a screwdriver into their car body panels, this is not the car for them. I'd hazard to guess that very few people have that habit.
          • by CBravo (35450)
            Darwinawards.com is always looking for new members.
          • Fine, have it your way. Charge up your phone, put it into your pocket, and run out into traffic. After a car hits you, come back and let up know how your cell phone is doing. Oh, make sure the vehicle in this test hits your phone directly; getting struck in the opposite hip doesn't count. So if the first one isn't at the right angle, stumble on until another opportunity presents itself. That will usually be about three seconds later.

      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        I can't see the value of those panels being high enough to justify stealing and reselling. The trouble involved in taking off a panel without damaging it is reason enough to discourage thieves. Catalytic converters on the other hand could quickly be chopped off a car that you could slide under and resold as raw materials instead of attempting to sell an actual car part at a ridiculously lower value than new.

      • > Do you walk around with a phone thinking "in my pocket, near my crotch is a continuing, unending fire risk that occasionally makes phone calls".

        No, but occasionally I think that of my laptop.

    • by Virtucon (127420)

      Spontaneous Combustion? Naw, just a little water would be all that's needed and it wouldn't matter if the power source is one big lump, like a bunch of batteries next to each other or spread out all over the car, taking your house with it. [autoweek.com]

      To your other point, auto manufacturers have been shifting more and more technology into cars which prevents your local mom and pop car repair from fixing them requiring dealer only servicing or programming services. Even then, you can't get things fixed properly, even w [7machine.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The summary appears to be incorrect / misunderstood. The battery panels appear to sit alongside the bodywork, effectively filling in un-used space, not forming the bodywork itself.

    • by kheldan (1460303)

      "spontaneously combust"

      If by that you mean if you get in an accident and one or more battery packs gets physically damaged, self-discharges catastrophically, and starts a fire? Yes, I would consider that to be a serious drawback to this idea. Not that concentrating all your energy storage capacity in one place is all that much better (bigger BOOM! if damage occurs to it) but on the other hand having the battery pack in one central location on the vehicle makes it easier to protect and harder to damage in a garden-variety fender-b

    • I know. It's not like battery technologies are any different. I always expect my alkaline, lead-acid, agm, nicad, NiMH, etc batteries to go up in flames at all times. Hell i remember when my tv remote exploded once.... ohh yeah that never happened.

      No one said anything about putting lithium in carbon fiber, unless you are suggesting that you are. If so i would like to subscribe to your amusing newsletter.

      • by nojayuk (567177)

        I've had lead-acid batteries explode on me a couple of times. Hydrogen gas is evolved during charging and one time I was welding something at what I thought was a safe distance from a battery on charge when it exploded. Another time starting a small truck the battery also exploded; I think the alternator controller failed and was overcharging the battery and when it restarted there was enough hydrogen vapour trapped under the hood to form an explosive mixture.

        My main worry about this sort of wraparound E-Z-

    • I remember hearing about a submarine design where the batteries were deliberately distributed in the outer part of the vessel, underneath the skin. While that increased the risk of damage to the batteries themselves, the heavy batteries also served as a layer of armor, giving additional protection for the ship's interior. So depending on the design decisions made, it might actually increase safety in some situations.

    • by sjames (1099)

      And then when the batteries wear out, just throw the car away! Isn't that special.

  • ...is that it provides people with a really strong incentive not to sideswipe you, since all that energy would be dumped into your car when you hit the panel. I am sure the pyrotechnics would be quite pretty.

  • How long do they last before having to be replaced?
    How much does it cost to replace them?
    • by Herve5 (879674)

      Here in France *all* electric cars come with a contract for batteries replacement. Otherwise it'd be catastrophically costly. And boy will you replace them. Having the whole car structure to replace instead of changing batteries to me is a kind of industrial suicide, unless you decide to throw your car away every two years...

      • by SeaFox (739806)

        Having the whole car structure to replace instead of changing batteries to me is a kind of industrial suicide, unless you decide to throw your car away every two years...

        Ah, so this is how they plan to add forced-obsolesce into cars.
        Can't have anyone driving the same automobile for a decade, of course.

  • Two major problems (Score:4, Insightful)

    by multimediavt (965608) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:26PM (#45153907)

    1. If you're in a crash or just dent a body panel with this crap in it how much is that going to cost?

    2. What happens when you need to replace the batteries because they don't hold a charge? You replace all the body panels?

    I totally understand the "problems" with batteries in EVs. As the summary states "they're big, heavy, and expensive", but they also need to be serviceable, easily swapped or replaced, and then made smaller, lighter, cheaper over time. The barriers to EVs are gas/petrol stations. There's a lot of them! Sure, some have chargers now, but what EVs need are battery swap stations. Of course, this would also require a standard for battery placement, shape and technology to work, but the battery swapping (like propane tanks a la Blue Rhino) I feel is the best solution for competing with internal combustion based cars and the multitude of fueling stations available. Range issues all but disappear if I can pull over just about anywhere and swap out the battery for a fully charged new one in two minutes or less. [teslamotors.com] Integrating batteries into other parts of the car seems dumb to me. Sure, something that makes electricity to help charge the battery pack would be nice, but batteries in body panels for a vehicle that runs on them? Don't see that as a good idea. Standardization of a battery pack and mass deployment of swap stations would be the big win for EVs. Going to be a while yet. Lots could happen.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      1. That's what insurance is for.

      2. Carbon fibre batteries don't deteriorate in capacity like lithium batteries do.

      • by DarkOx (621550)

        You do understand how insurance works don't you?

        They need to take in premiums, more than what they pay out in claims and desired profit, less whatever they expect to make investing in other financial instruments before they have to payout.

        When they underwrite collision and comp on the vehicle you will simple pay more because they will be aware of the unusually high cost associated with repairing your vehicle and being more likely to need to total it.

        If enough cars start using this technology liability will

        • by mark-t (151149)

          When they underwrite collision and comp on the vehicle you will simple pay more

          Only if I was at fault in the collision.

      • by TWiTfan (2887093)

        2. Carbon fibre batteries don't deteriorate in capacity like lithium batteries do.

        Batteries that don't deteriorate over time are like the Loch Ness Monster. I keep hearing tales about them, but I've yet to meet one.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          I didn't say they don't deteriorate... I said they don't deteriorate like lithium batteries. A carbon fibre supercapacitor in a car would, unless damaged, last about as many years as the car itself.
    • by necro81 (917438)

      If you're in a crash or just dent a body panel with this crap in it how much is that going to cost

      Increasingly, I think we are going to find body panels that are made of carbon fiber. While these may well end up being both lighter and more damage-resistant than their steel and aluminum predecessors, they won't be easy to repair. Carbon fiber doesn't dent when it get hit - it fractures. Therefore, you can't just have the guy in the body shop pound out a few dents, grind it down, and put on a new coat of

  • by div_2n (525075) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:27PM (#45153937)

    Having the batteries centralized like in the Tesla is a GOOD thing. They keep the center of gravity low on the car making it almost impossible to roll (seriously, the NHTSA had to specially design a scenario to get it to roll) and they make it possible to swap batteries for a quick charge which is going to be necessary unless the capacity of batteries can be increased by a factor of 10 with charge speeds doubled or tripled.

    This is a step backwards in many ways not to mention the least of which is to necessarily increase the cost of mild accidents to replace the battery integrated pieces.

  • Fine, I'll join the dumb comments parade.

    "The whole car body is batteries."
    "Shocking!"

    Need to charge your cellphone? Tie the USB ground lead to a manhole cover, tie the other lead to a nail and pound it into the quarterpanel of the nearest Volvo (oops, wrong voltage :-) )

  • >>> But what if you could shift EV batteries away from being big blocks under the car and engineer them into the car itself?

    You actually want all the weight to be in the middle of the car and low down. If you raised the car's centre of gravity or made it off-centre (by redistributing the weight of the batteries) you will make the car handle a lot worse.

    Also batteries can be dangerous as they contain a LOT of energy. Physical damage can easily result in fire. They are best protected by being locate

    • by geekoid (135745)

      Post like that is why my sig says what it says.

      You actually want all the weight to be in the middle of the car and low down.

      And we don'e know how to distribute weight? ad weight?
      Read the article. This material is strong enough to be used as struts. Think about that.

      "Also batteries can be dangerous as they contain a LOT of energy. "
      true, but it isn't chemical energy, so no fires.

      " one small bump or even door ding could be catastrophic."
      um, no. Please read up on the tech.

      • by JustNiz (692889)

        taking your points in order:

        1) your sig isn't even visible in your post.

        2) It doesnt matter what you can make of it, if the weight is higher than it was, the handling WILL be affetcted. 2b) I dont need to be talked to like a kid you arrogant prick.

        3) see http://www.foxnews.com/leisure/2013/10/07/tesla-ceo-says-fire-caused-by-impaled-battery/ [foxnews.com]

        4) see 3)

        • by Urza9814 (883915)

          Not the OP, but...

          1) your sig isn't even visible in your post.

          And the fact that you've chosen to hide it is his fault because...? Anyway it's just a link to Dunning-Kruger Effect on Wikipedia.

          2) It doesnt matter what you can make of it, if the weight is higher than it was, the handling WILL be affetcted.

          These panels weigh *less* than existing panels. RTFA

          Let me first quote the point you're replying to:

          "Also batteries can be dangerous as they contain a LOT of energy. "
          true, but it isn't chemical energy, so no fires.

          The Tesla uses chemical batteries. These are not chemical batteries.

          4) see 3)

          Again, this is a *completely* different technology than what is used in the Tesla. That's like saying a hand crank flashlight is going to spontaneously combust just because some laptop batteries d

  • Since batteries are electricity driven by chemical reactions, I've always wondered about the impact of cold-weather climates on electric cars - both in the short term immediate-power context, and in the longer-term cycle life of the system. I suspect that the reports of range, power output, etc are all based on relatively favorable situations.

    Living in northern MN, there are several weeks if not months per year that I walk out and start my vehicle (parked outdoors) and every piece of it has to be -20C, -35

    • by necro81 (917438)

      Living in northern MN ... it has to be -20C, -35C or colder.

      Wait a minute, you claim to live in Minnesota, but you quote temperatures in Celcius? That ain't 'Merican! You must be one o' them commie Canadians! (Either that, or your an engineer like me.)

  • by thisisauniqueid (825395) on Thursday October 17, 2013 @12:49PM (#45154217)
    Finally, a good way to deal with people key-scratching your car.
  • I suppose they use less nasty stuff than current batteries.

    Of course we recycle current batteries pretty well, oh, and metal body panels. I am sure it can't be TOOO hard to recycle nano-battery carbon fiber panels can it? Is it even possible in theory? What happens if you throw these in a dump with water, random metal things, and pressure?

    I see the CG is a big point. I love the local EV that is 3 ft wide and looks like it would tip if you lean on it but has a 1000 lb battery pack in bottom and handles great

  • These guys at Imperial College London have been working on this for a while now. Previous coverage on /. Integrating Capacitors Into Car Frames [slashdot.org]
    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Agreed, with the understanding that capacitors and batteries are different things with different manufacturing and operational characteristics. But sure, there's probably some parallels.

      • by necro81 (917438)
        It's a little unclear exactly what these guys are working on. The older article was talking about ultracapacitors that could operate in parallel with conventional batteries. Today's article talks about "nano structured batteries and super capacitors, and then researchers found a way to sandwich the energy storage systems in the carbon fiber", which is kinda vague. Which is it: a battery or a capacitor?
  • you kids have it easy. back in my day we used to have exploding bags of hot gas that fired out of the door panels to protect you. and they STILL spilled your mocha latte everywhere! now you kids with your new fangled battery cars just get a warm splash of lithium.
  • That's not a bad idea at all. Two questions, though: (1) How does this affect accidents, specifically willingness of emergency crews to pry open a crunched car body to extract you, and (2), how does this affect the cost and/or practicality of replacing the batteries when they inevitably begin to wear out?

  • I understand this "prototype" is capable of 80 miles but lets say it was able to do 400 miles, I would still be limited to 400 miles. What Tesla is trying to do is have gas stations keep charged batteries in storage for quick swaps. The Telsa batterie is a quick disconnect/reconnect so that you can extend the range beyond its current limited range. I think in the near future it is the best option for EVs.

  • This strikes me as having potential to augment the traditional battery in a car. I don't think it will replace it, nor should it. Combine this with a moderate sized battery and you extend the range of the car dramatically. Better, you can have two different systems optimized for different uses, one a slow charging energy dense battery and the other a quick charging efficient capacitor mopping up regenerative breaking energy and delivering it in a quick burst. Add in a few other systems such as integrati
  • Until you park your car, come back to find someone opened their door into yours, cracked part of your battery and now you don't have enough capacity to get home.
    (or it caught fire, like lithium batteries like doing when punctured)

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