Volvo Car Body Panels Serve as Rechargeable Battery

At Volvo, the body becomes the battery

In a materials development project launched by the London Imperial College, nine European companies and institutes are developing carbon fibres and polymer resin that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries are able to do. Volvo is the only car manufacturer participating in the project funded in part by the European Union.

 The material to be developed will be extremely strong and pliant. Thus, it can be shaped for use in building a vehicle's body panels. It also will be much lighter than today's batteries. According to Volvo, a car's weight could be reduced by as much as 15 percent if steel body panels would be replaced with the new material.

Cars of the future could be powered by their bodywork thanks to new battery technology

The researchers say that the composite material that they are developing, which is made of carbon fibres and a polymer resin, will store and discharge large amounts of energy much more quickly than conventional batteries. In addition, the material does not use chemical processes, making it quicker to recharge than conventional batteries. Furthermore, this recharging process causes little degradation in the composite material, because it does not involve a chemical reaction, whereas conventional batteries degrade over time.

The material could be charged by plugging a hybrid car into household power supply. The researchers are also exploring other alternatives for charging it such as recycling energy created when a car brakes.


Tomorrow's Volvo car: body panels serve as the car battery

Volvo Cars contributes its expertise
The project will continue for three years. In the first stage, work focuses both on developing the composite material so it can store more energy and on studying ways of producing the material on an industrial scale. Only in the final stage will the battery be fitted to a car.

"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.