An expert in lightweight composite materials at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden wants your next car to be made out of batteries.
No, engineer and professor Leif Asp doesn’t want you driving around in a coupe made out of discarded Double-A batteries. Still, he does wonder if we can’t turn our cars into their own power sources. His main point of contention with the remarkable and impressive state of battery technology today is that it’s a drain on efficiency. Think about it in terms of gardening, more specifically edge trimming. Some edge trimmers have an engine and gas tank on the end of it, making them somewhat heavy. Others can be plugged into the wall, meaning they are lighter and never need refilled.
When it comes to cars or airplanes, you have a fuel tank and a battery in some cases. In others you just have batteries, but they are of the very heavy lithium ion variety. In order to reduce the weight and improve efficiency, Asp wants to see automakers remove the dedicated batteries. What’s even more revolutionary is that he doesn’t want to replace them with anything.
Turn Your Car Into a ‘Structural Battery’
Instead of replacing the batteries in your car, Asp wants your car’s body to actually be the battery. It’s all because of the miracle that is carbon fiber. Auto enthusiasts already know how structurally sound this material can be. Carbon fiber is also able to be used to conduct electricity, if designed properly. What Asp wants to do is combine these two features in one miracle product. Put another way, Asp wants your new carbon fiber hood to also be a brand-new battery capable of storing energy.
Here’s how it would work. The outer shell of your car would made of a polymer with carbon fiber all through it in a specific arrangement. There would be an insulating layer of fiberglass, and another polymer with a cathode coated carbon fiber. The result would be a lighter load on the car, because all of your power ends up stored in the car’s chassis, doors, hood, and everywhere else. It would revolutionize electric car production, and it would also decrease weight by as much as 50 percent.
Don’t Run to the Dealership Just Yet...
As with all incredible scientific innovations, we’re still a long way from this being possible. Some experts say that such advancements are decades away. However, Asp believes it will merely take years. In fact, he’s working with Airbus to create a demo for as early as next year. Nearly a third of an airline’s operating budget comes down to fuel, which adds weight and reduces efficiency. Asp hopes his demo with Airbus will demonstrate that not only is the technology viable, it is good business.
Still, it won’t be perfect. For example, in theory, a structural battery wouldn’t hold as much of a charge as a traditional battery. However, that may not mean much because if the car is lighter and more efficient, you can go further with less of a charge. It’s also possible that as more minds devote their efforts to this problem, innovations in structure, design, or other elements of the technology will change that forecast. Either way, this is a unique and incredible concept that could change the way we think about auto efficiency.
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