Volvo Cars is one of nine European companies and institutes working to develop a composite blend of carbon fibers and polymer resin that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries can.
The materials development project was launched earlier this year by Imperial College in London, with Volvo Cars being the only car manufacturer participating in the project. With the help of approximately $5.5 million in financial support from the European Union, the group hopes to create a material that is not only able to store and charge energy, but is extremely strong and pliant, which means it can be shaped for use in building the car's body panels. According to the group's calculations, the car's weight could be cut by as much as 15 percent if steel body panels were replaced with the new material.
"Our role is to contribute expertise on how this technology can be integrated in the future and to input ideas about the advantages and disadvantages in terms of cost and user-friendliness," says Per-Ivar Sellergren, development engineer at the Volvo Cars Materials Centre.
Initially, the car's spare wheel recess will be converted into 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," says Per-Ivar Sellergren.
A video on the Imperial College YouTube page features Dr. Emile Greenhalgh, from the Department of Aeronautics, explaining how the composite material works and the possible benefits of using this material in vehicle manufacturing.