Volvo has developed a new concept for energy storage with the use of high tech body panels. The concept uses special batteries and super capacitors sandwiched between layers of carbon fiber.
The European Union has funded the project for three and a half years. Ten groups participated, one of which was Volvo. The objective of the project was to create a viable alternative to traditional batteries, which are heavy and expensive.
The new battery technology was built around the existing hybrid and electric car systems, which rely on batteries to temporarily store energy. Even with rapidly changing battery technology, however, batteries are still heavier and more expensive than manufacturers would like. Using cutting edge technology Volvo has developed a system which can store energy in what appears to be a normal body panel.
Advanced nanomaterial and super capacitors are said to be the key to the new technology. In layman's terms, they are very thin structures which can gather and hold energy similar to a conventional battery. The nano batteries are only about 1 mm in thickness, and are strengthened using layers of carbon fiber.
Volvo currently has two functional pieces, the trunk lid and the plenum cover. The trunk lid is identical in design to the original piece, but weighs significantly less and can hold electricity as desired. Assuming the bare carbon panel is painted over, there would be no visual indication that the panel is any different to the rest of the body. The other piece is the plenum cover, which helps divide the engine bay with the windshield area. The original piece is made from plastic and has a stiffening rally bar and small battery for the 12V electrical system. The new piece is strong enough to take place of the original plastic piece as well as the structural rally bar, as well as hold the energy from the 12V system. Energy from the trunk lid and plenum cover run the car's start/stop system, and could one day be the main source of electric storage.
In addition to added strength and electric capacity, the new body panels allow for significant lightening of the overall weight. Not only are the panels lighter than the original steel panels, but they can also replace components which become redundant, like the 12V system battery. Volvo estimates the overall weight can be lowered up to 15 percent.