Automotive

Volvo to replace body parts with energized carbon fiber panels

Volvo to replace body parts wi...
Carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors could replace a vehicle's 12 V battery
Carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors could replace a vehicle's 12 V battery
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Volvo says energized carbon fiber body panels are not only stronger and lighter but easily replace a vehicle's 12 volt system
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Volvo says energized carbon fiber body panels are not only stronger and lighter but easily replace a vehicle's 12 volt system
Volvo’s concept would spread battery weight out evenly over a vehicle’s body, thus enhancing a vehicle's handling and performance characteristics
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Volvo’s concept would spread battery weight out evenly over a vehicle’s body, thus enhancing a vehicle's handling and performance characteristics
The carbon fiber trunk lid, loaded with nano-batteries and capacitors, is lighter and stronger than its steel counterpart
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The carbon fiber trunk lid, loaded with nano-batteries and capacitors, is lighter and stronger than its steel counterpart
Carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors could replace a vehicle's 12 V battery
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Carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors could replace a vehicle's 12 V battery
Carbon fiber is torsionally stronger and lighter than traditional steel
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Carbon fiber is torsionally stronger and lighter than traditional steel
The Volvo S80 receives a carbon fiber engine bay crossmember, reducing weight by 50 percent while increasing structural rigidity
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The Volvo S80 receives a carbon fiber engine bay crossmember, reducing weight by 50 percent while increasing structural rigidity
The issue of overall cost implementation and replacement of broken body panels remains an issue
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The issue of overall cost implementation and replacement of broken body panels remains an issue
Capacitor infused carbon fiber crossmember in place on Volvo S80 test vehicle
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Capacitor infused carbon fiber crossmember in place on Volvo S80 test vehicle
Stronger and lighter than steel, carbon fiber continues to be cost prohibitive for mass production for the moment
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Stronger and lighter than steel, carbon fiber continues to be cost prohibitive for mass production for the moment
Volvo claims its new panel technology stores charge faster than traditional EV alternatives
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Volvo claims its new panel technology stores charge faster than traditional EV alternatives
Nano batteries and super capacitors are sandwiched between carbon fiber and resin then plugged into the vehicle's electrical system
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Nano batteries and super capacitors are sandwiched between carbon fiber and resin then plugged into the vehicle's electrical system
A big advantage to the concept is a vehicle's battery capacity and charging capabilities can be increased or decreased depending on surface area coverage
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A big advantage to the concept is a vehicle's battery capacity and charging capabilities can be increased or decreased depending on surface area coverage
Body sheets can be formed to match most any existing body panel, opening up a world of possibilities for all EV and hybrid manufacturers
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Body sheets can be formed to match most any existing body panel, opening up a world of possibilities for all EV and hybrid manufacturers
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For automobile manufacturers, the electric elephant in the room continues to be bulky and weighty battery packs. This week, Volvo unveiled an innovative potential solution to the problem that it has been working on for the past three and a half years with other European partners; replace steel body panels with carbon fiber composite panels infused with nano-batteries and super capacitors.

The conductive material used around the vehicle to charge and store energy can be recharged via the vehicle’s regenerative braking system or via the grid. When the system and motor requires a charge, the energized panels behave like any traditional battery pack and discharge accordingly. According to Volvo, the material charges and stores faster than a typical system.

Using a Volvo S80 as a test platform, the team replaced the vehicle’s trunk lid and plenum cross member over the engine bay with the new material. Volvo claims the composite trunk lid, which is stronger than the outgoing steel component, could not only power the vehicle's 12 volt system but the weight savings alone could increase an EV's overall range and performance as a result.

Under the hood, Volvo wanted to show that the plenum replacement bar is not only capable of replacing a 12 volt system but is also 50 percent lighter than the standard steel cross-member and torsionally stronger. The very much revolutionary concept, chock full of cost and engineering challenges, presents an interesting solution that could not only reduce overall weight but increase charge capacity relative to a vehicle’s surface area.

Volvo says energized carbon fiber body panels are not only stronger and lighter but easily replace a vehicle's 12 volt system
Volvo says energized carbon fiber body panels are not only stronger and lighter but easily replace a vehicle's 12 volt system

When it comes to weight savings, the battery pack in Tesla’s Model S for example, not only adds significant cost but also brings with it over 1,000 lb (453 kg), making the electric argument a difficult one for many. With Volvo’s concept, that huge chunk of weight would not only be lighter under this scenario, but would be spread out evenly over a vehicle’s body. In theory, vehicle handling and performance characteristics would thus improve as a result of this revised displacement idea.

But the idea of using body panels as battery packs does come with its share of particular concerns. Lamborghini, McLaren and Pagani charge a hyper-premium for their exotics as a result of extensive carbon fiber use, so for this idea to become reality and make it to mass production would require a significant reduction in the cost of carbon fiber.

Capacitor infused carbon fiber crossmember in place on Volvo S80 test vehicle
Capacitor infused carbon fiber crossmember in place on Volvo S80 test vehicle

Then there’s the issue of broken panels or those damaged in an accident. In the event of an accident not only would body panels be extremely costly to replace but they could present unprecedented problems for emergency crews. Electrical surges coming from broken body panels could be potentially harmful were rescue persons unaware of the underlying electrical issues.

On a fossil fuel-powered note, cars using traditional 12 volt batteries, which weigh anywhere from 45 - 61 lb (20-28 kg), this technology could also prove beneficial by relocating that hefty chunk of lead from the nose of the car out across larger surface areas.

According to Volvo, weight savings of 15 percent or more could be achieved by replacing a vehicle’s traditional body and relevant electrical components with these new nano-infused carbon fiber panels. Volvo is also keen to point out the positive sustainability aspect that comes as a result of such weight reduction.

Source: Volvo

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27 comments
David Clarke
Why not fold up the new (battery)body panels into a battery shape, and make the body out of carbon fibre. Otherwise prangs will cost an absolute fortune. Imagine the cost of insurance!
bergamot69
Not only would these body parts be dangerous after a collision, but carbon fibre is notorious for shattering into very sharp pieces, that can become projectiles in the event of a collision.
I don't think carbon fibre is a suitable material for use on road vehicles, except possibly in parts of the vehicle that are generally contained in the event of a crash, perhaps certain interior parts.
Dziks
"weight (...) would be spread out evenly over a vehicle’s body. In theory, vehicle handling and performance characteristics would thus improve as a result of this revised displacement idea." - this is new!! AFAIK low lying centre of gravity improves handling etc.,not spread out evenly over a vehicle’s body.
ZekeG
The frame made with carbon fiber would be a better option. Who wants to get shocked and yes, carbon is expensive and shatters. Wrap the carbon frame with non- conductive basalt fibers( much much more affordable).
notarichman
i'd rather film PV solar panels were glued to the outside panels, part of the metal is removed (thinner panels that weigh less), and some carbon fiber put underneath...acting as batteries. thus making power, batteries, no flying carbon fiber in a crash, and about the same weight? Don't know what to do about electrical charges flying around in event of a crash.
No solution i have seen is perfect. EV's have a ways to go before they rival ICE's, but they are getting closer all the time. IMO the larger car mfg. have not put much effort into making EV's viable. I still think they want the repair parts income and are closely involved with the petroleum industry. Now that almost anyone can donate large amounts of money to politicians, bribes are essentially legal. Proving a donation is not a bribe is almost impossible.
Only consumer interest proven by purchase will overcome the auto mfg. bias.
There have been studies indicating that the amount of carbon / co2 emissions emitted by one volcano, let alone by all of them, exceeds the total output caused by humans. So maybe co2 is not the issue concerning keeping autos green. I think the issue is petroleum products. There aren't many areas in the world left that could possibly produce NEW petroleum. Sure, there are more places to drill and recover those products, but eventually the cost of recovering them will be more than they are worth. Thus, IMO we need a different mode of transport that doesn't require much petroleum products and I'd prefer that mode to be somewhat green.
In Eastern USA or anywhere that you can live, shop, and drive to work closely EV's are now possible. In other areas like where I live, it is over an hour drive to get to a grocery store, gas station, etc. For more esoteric purchases or services my drive is at least 1.5 hours or more (like a good hospital). We have no cell phone service and won't get it because my village has a population of 41 year around residents. If a power line goes down, we also lose our water until power resumes. As a result I am very interested in off the "grid" supplies (not just electricity!). When an EV is for sale with charging stations and repair stations available in my area that i can afford, you can bet that i will buy one...especially if it is a 4wd pickup.
VirtualGathis
I think I agree this concepts is interesting but not as a body panel. Maybe replacing internal braces and structural components.
I have yet to hear of a completely safe battery construction in the event of a collision. They do not even mention the chemestry they are using. The diagram looks like they are using a capacitive effect which would have a crazy low energy density.
Just to use a hypothetical situation here. Imagine they use Lithium Ion or Lithium polymer batteries inside these panels. Now look up video of penetration testing on Lithium batteries. I've heard them described as "blows up bigger than Texas" which is an exaggeration but brings the point home. Toxic smoke is the first result. Then very hot fire that water does not extinguish.
If they use the carbon fiber as capacitive "plates" then the energy density would be very low and would provide very dangerous discharge issues. For an idea how bad it can get look up incedents involving the high voltage capacitors in "old fashioned" tube TVs and monitors. Then imagine a capacitor the size of a car blast-discharging. I've seen the TV sized caps blast nickel sized holes in sheet metal.
Now to make it clear why using it as a body panel is plain foolish. Imagine you child playing, bicycling, or whatever. He or she smacks into ones of these and cracks/breaks the panel. Lithium or capacitive the child gets a possible fatal electrical blast and is exposed to slicing injury, possibly toxic chemical. That's whith the vehicle parked. Now imagine either of these coliding at highway speeds. Either possibility would create a very dangerous, toxic mess.
Then there is the point David made. These would make a fender bender into a hugely expensive replacement as repair would not be an option.
Slowburn
Just wait until a little ding becomes a battery fire.
Larry English
"the electric elephant in the room continues to be bulky and weighty battery packs."
no, it is low capacity cold weather performance drop high cost short life
and special bonus, in winter you can either have heat or get back home from work, but not both
wle
Jerry Peavy
A little less of the, I heard this or I think I read this, type of statements would be helpful. If you can't reference facts it might be best to say nothing at all.
Don Betton
Interesting and promising battery solutions. However where are the solar panels? I never see electric or hybrid cars incorporate even the smallest solar panel!! While panels will not provide all the required energy it is surprising panels seem to be never incorporated in car design.