While still in an early developmental stage, Volvo has revealed it's involved in a program that could see batteries in conventional as well as in hybrid and electric vehicles replaced by a new strain of lightweight "structural energy storage" composite body panels. These components, which are currently being tested on an S80 sedan, consist of nano-structured batteries and supercapacitors sandwiched between lightweight carbon composite skins. They can be recharged by regenerative braking or by plugging the car into a conventional power outlet. In addition to being strong and flexible, these new battery substitutes also respond more quickly to replenishment moments.
Volvo Car Group is the only automaker to have participated in the EU-funded project that worked on perfecting this potential breakthrough technology which has been going on for the past three and a half years. While the current S80 component list is confined to a front plenum cross-brace and the rear decklid, data compiled to date indicates a vehicle fitted with those panels as well as a hood, doors and a roof made from the same materials could shed 15 percent or more of its total weight. Volvo claims the decklid and plenum brace alone can eliminate the need for both a conventional 12V battery as well as a supplemental start/stop battery. In a pure electric application, it feels the component set could add up to 81 additional miles of range to the mix.
No word yet on when we might see this new tech arrive on the streets, nor have there been any comments about the cost involved in turning it from experimental status to full production reality.
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