Technology

"Power suits" for EVs promise an acceleration and 25% range boost

"Power suits" for EVs promise ...
UCF researchers Kowsik Sambath Kumar, Jayan Thomas, and Deepak Pandey with samples of their battery-supercapacitor hybrid material that could form "power suits" for electric vehicles
UCF researchers Kowsik Sambath Kumar, Jayan Thomas, and Deepak Pandey with samples of their battery-supercapacitor hybrid material that could form "power suits" for electric vehicles
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UCF researchers Kowsik Sambath Kumar, Jayan Thomas, and Deepak Pandey with samples of their battery-supercapacitor hybrid material that could form "power suits" for electric vehicles
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UCF researchers Kowsik Sambath Kumar, Jayan Thomas, and Deepak Pandey with samples of their battery-supercapacitor hybrid material that could form "power suits" for electric vehicles

There is an exciting branch of battery research that involves combining the strength and durability of next-generation materials with their energy storage potential. This could see car panels double as their batteries, for example, and in a new example of what this could look like scientists have developed a "power suit" for electric vehicles that could not only extend their range, but give them a handy boost in acceleration at the same time.

Sometimes known as structural batteries, we've seen some interesting recent advances in this space from research groups and even big-name automakers. Back in 2013, Volvo demonstrated carbon fiber body panels with energy storage potential, and we've seen other teams show off similar concepts since. These projects sought to combine the high energy density of batteries with the ultra-fast discharge rates of supercapacitors, in materials strong enough to serve as a car's exterior.

This new breakthrough continues this line of thinking, with scientists at University of Central Florida and NASA designing a new material featuring unique properties that allow for not just impressive energy storage potential, but also the strength needed to endure a car crash.

The scientists took positively and negatively charged layers of carbon fiber and stacked them together in an alternating pattern. Sheets of graphene were sandwiched between the layers to boost their energy storage ability, with the stacks attached to electrodes coated with metal oxides to increase both the voltage and energy density of the device.

This supercapacitor-battery hybrid device is as strong as steel, lighter than aluminum and boasts a bunch of desirable properties for electric vehicles. The scientists says that if used as typical car's body shell to supplement the battery, it could increase the range by as much as 25 percent, extending it from 200 miles (321 km) per charge to 250 miles (402 km), for example.

“Now in electric cars, the battery is 30 to 40 percent of the weight,” said study co-author Kowsik Sambath Kumar. “With this energy storing composite we can get additional mileage without increasing the battery weight, further it reduces the vehicle weight, while maintaining high tensile, bending and impact strength. Whenever you decrease that weight, you can increase the range, so this has huge applications in electric cars and aviation.”

Due to its supercacacitor-like capabilities, the device could also discharge power quickly to impact on acceleration, propelling an electric vehicle from zero to 60 mph (97 km/h) in three seconds. Further, the materials are all non-toxic and non-flammable, important for road safety, and the scientists say the charge-discharge cycle life is 10 times that of a typical electric car battery.

“This is a huge improvement over past approaches that have suffered from issues with toxic material, flammable organic electrolytes, low life cycles or poor performance,” said study co-author Jayan Thomas.

The scientists see the technology extending far beyond the world of electric vehicles, imagining it finding use in drones, portable devices, and wearable tech like futuristic eyewear or virtual reality headsets. One of the more immediate applications could be in space, with the team touting its potential as a material for satellite construction.

“Making a cubic satellite out of this composite will make the satellite light in weight and will help to eliminate the heavy battery pack,” said study author Deepak Pandey. “This could save thousands of dollars per launch. Further, free volume gained by removal of big batteries could help pack in more sensors and testing equipment, increasing the functionality of satellite. Supercapacitor-battery hybrid behavior is ideal for CubeSats since it can charge in minutes when a satellite orbits over the solar-lit side of the Earth."

The research was published in the journal Small.

Source: University of Central Florida

11 comments
11 comments
MarkGovers
Tantalizing!
michael_dowling
This is good news,but then how would your car insurance premiums be affected? If the car panels double as their batteries,the cost of repair might mean your car is written off rather than repaired.
vince
Hybrid battery and supercaps are the wave of future. Imagine a Tesla Roadster with 2,000 hp and 2500 ft lbs torque with 25 percent less weight and ability to accelerate from 0 to 60 in 1 second and to 100 in 2 seconds and 200 in 5 seconds and quarter mile in 5.5 seconds at 210 mph.
vince
But to really wrangle all that power to road they need to make road surfaces metallic and super magnets under the car capable of increasing downforce by a factor of 100.
Bob B
Of course, no mention of cost. If people get upset when their car is totaled because of the cost of replacing the airbags, wait until they find out that damaging the front fender and hood means the car is totaled. Oh, and lets not forget that repair shops will need to provide special training in how to handle body panels that may discharge suddenly and hurt the person performing the repairs. And what happens when the batteries in those panels age and need to be replaced if you want your vehicle to work "as new"? "That will be $20K to replace the primary battery and $50K to replace the body panel batteries. Oh, forget it and recycle it? Sorry, there's a $15K recycling fee because the materials are basically impossible to recycle."

I can't wait for our green future.
paul314
Does the supercapacitor leak the way most capacitors do? Perhaps you charge it slowly from the battery or the via regenerative braking, and then use that energy before it drifts away.
Mark T.
It is always good to try to think out of the box, and this invention may work in a variety of niche applications, but don't expect Tesla to use this anytime soon in their vehicles. It would increase the cost of the vehicles significantly, complicate construction, increase risk in an accident and provide only a marginal increase in horse power for vehicles that are already so fast that performance is not an issue for the vast majority of their buyers.
DavidB
@Bob B, don’t you think many people were just as terrified at the thought of lightning running through the walls of their houses, of horseless carriages with tanks of explosive liquid on board careening around the streets, about hurtling through the sky in small metal tubes?

Jeez, man, change happens. Don’t be afraid.
clay
At first glance, this looks like yet another miracle battery breakthrough. Lets hope it is :-)

Considerations:
Recycling? Reusing graphite is not a big deal.. but the epoxy resins are difficult.
Static discharge? you think the occasional zap from the car door is bad *now*? Just wait for this baby to let loose. :-P
Robt
@DavidB Addressing, or at least raising the possibility of cost issues and real world implications doesn’t indicate a fear of new technology. Some technological advances are awesome, but they will not become useful and/or widespread unless they are economically viable
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