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New Material Transforms Car Bodies Into Batteries

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the shocking-discoveries dept.

Power 213

MikeChino writes "As battery manufacturers race to produce more efficient lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles, some scientists are looking to make the cars themselves a power source. Researchers are currently developing a new auto body material that can store and release electrical energy like a battery. Once perfected, scientists hope the substance will replace standard car bodies, making vehicles up to 15 percent lighter and significantly extending the range of electric vehicles."

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Good (2, Funny)

2names (531755) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065394)

I really hope we get this electric car thing figured out soon because I am just about sick of following smoke belching vehicles every day.

Re:Good (5, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065530)

You just need to learn how to be a leader.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065684)

Even once they do perfect the electric car I would imagine there is no getting rid of the internal combustion engine.

Diesel powered vehicles will slowly turn to bio-diesel options and gasoline powered engines will slowly turn to ethanol power.

Electric is good for basic commuting where the route will be basically the same day after day, it is not good for if you do not know how far you will drive a day. Although the long recharge time is part of it, the main part is that you do not want to buy more battery than you are going to be using since the battery will be one of the most expensive parts of the car.

A larger gas tank costs almost nothing. The infrastructure is already in place for bio-diesel and ethanol and most cars can be converted. Electric cars will fill a niche, and that is all.

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065850)

Biofuels are not a long-term solution. Corn ethanol is over two orders of magnitude more land-intensive than solar thermal. Algae is just under one order of magnitude more land intensive. Plus, biofuel creation requires water, fertilizer, processing, etc. And the combination of needing "lots of water" and "lots of sun" can be rather mutually exclusive, as the sunniest places in the country are desert. Solar thermal is closed loop.

If your goal is to turn solar energy into propulsion, pure electric is the way to go.

Although the long recharge time is part of it

That's what rapid charging is for.

the main part is that you do not want to buy more battery than you are going to be using since the battery will be one of the most expensive parts of the car.

Indeed, the real issue is price. But that will fall significantly with mass production. And the operating cost advantage will remain, so eventually, even if sticker shock remains an issue for prospective buyers, seeing a lease price that's significantly cheaper than a gasoline car's lease plus the cost of gasoline that month should eventually drive the point home.

Furthermore, the main point to oversized gas tanks is to make it so that you don't have to fill up too often in your daily lives. Filling up is, after all, a pain; who wants to drive out of their way to pay for the privilege of pumping carcinogens in the middle of a blizzard? One of your average EV driver's favorite benefits is the fact that you start each day with a full charge. You don't even have to think about it in your daily life. The only time range comes into play is when you take long trips. But what's the point of having 700-800 miles on a long trip? Dear god, if you drive 700-800 miles without stopping to rest or eat, please don't do it when I'm on the road!

Lastly: In 1989, a new top of the line battery hit the market: the nickel metal hydride cell. It boasted 45Wh/kg energy density. Today, just over two decades later, commercially available li-ion cells boast up to 220 Wh/kg -- almost five times higher -- plus an order of magnitude higher power density. This trend shows no signs of slowing down; rather, it appears to be accelerating. So take that into account when talking about range for the future.

Re:Good (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066342)

Algae is just under one order of magnitude more land intensive.

Algae grow in water, you fucking moron.

Re:Good (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066452)

You have NO idea what you're talking about.

Do you have a degree in mechanical engineering ?

I didn't think so.

Have you owned many turbodiesel cars ?

No again.

So let's just get this straight and establish that you read Popular Science when you were
a young social outcast, and that this makes you think you have a command of the subject.

You don't.

So do the world a favor and SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Better yet, kill yourself.

Re:Good (3, Interesting)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066590)

Corn ethanol is over two orders of magnitude more land-intensive than solar thermal.

You'll make your point better if you don't bring up the worst possible case. Corn ethanol is only done for political purposes because it makes no economical sense.

Ethanol from cellulose based waste looks promising. Always good when a waste stream can be turned into a productive product.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol#Cellulosic_ethanol [wikipedia.org]

Bio-diesel will probably be bigger than ethanol though.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

Architect_sasyr (938685) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065874)

A larger gas tank costs almost nothing. The infrastructure is already in place for bio-diesel and ethanol and most cars can be converted. Electric cars will fill a niche, and that is all.

Grazing costs almost nothing. The infrastructure is already in place for pasture and oats, and most horses can pull a cart just fine. The aw-toe-mo-beel will fill a nice, and that is all.

Sometimes, for no reason at all (!!), some things just become huge. The car was reliant on reliable and obtainable fuel, and roads, and the world dealt with them just fine - I don't see why, when the option becomes viable and enough of the group-think follows it, electric cars will not follow the way of their predecessors.

Re:Good (4, Insightful)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066210)

Electric is good for basic commuting where the route will be basically the same day after day, it is not good for if you do not know how far you will drive a day. Although the long recharge time is part of it, the main part is that you do not want to buy more battery than you are going to be using since the battery will be one of the most expensive parts of the car.

Why not just make the batteries swappable at service stations? Then the only range that matters is the distance to the next service station.

Re:Good (1)

Khashishi (775369) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066324)

too abusable

Re:Good (5, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066420)

Why not just make the batteries swappable at service stations?

Too many variables. How much charge is in the current battery, how much wear and tear are in the battery you just got versus what you just gave, what happens when you get a partial dud, how many batteries can be swapped out a day, the physical labor of swapping batteries, what do you charge/how do you come to the cost and how does that make you competitive with your competition.

I thought it would be a smart idea to change out the electrolyte instead of the whole battery, but it wasn't actually all that smart either.

Re:Good (2, Interesting)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066482)

You're overlooking 2 things:

1- for daily commutes, you start each day with a full battery, which is more convenient than having to do regular trips to the service station.

2- for longer trips, batteries could be swappable, making longer trips possible with not much more pain than currently. that means
2a- coming up with an easy and standard way to do it (government regulation may be helpful, if it can prevent market fragmentation), and
2b- re-thinking ownership, because people will be leery of swapping their brand new battery for someone else's clunker. A yearly battery lease may be the way to go. It would alleviate the battery price problem, too.

Re:Good (5, Interesting)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065692)

I really hope we get this electric car thing figured out soon because I am just about sick of following smoke belching vehicles every day.

The tech is here. Modern batteries can rapid charge in minutes (given adequate cooling) and yield hundreds of miles of range. The issue is cost. For most EVs, battery packs are generally limited in size by price, not volume or weight. And not just battery cost that's the problem; quality AC drivetrains are expensive as heck right now. You can't even use a lot of mass-produced accessories with EVs if the conventional accessory requires a gasoline engine to be running. The good news is that it's all about volume. Your typical LFP or manganese li-ion pack combined with an AC drivetrain uses almost no rare or expensive raw materials. You have lithium salts ($4-8/kg), phosphoric acid (in the case of LFP), iron powder, a porous plastic membrane, graphite, etc in the battery pack; your motor optimally uses copper windings, but can also use aluminum; the inverter also uses copper or aluminum, plus things like silicon carbide for thyristors; etc. The expenses are primarily the huge amounts of labor and capital costs per unit because of very low volumes and because of the lack of production process refinement.

BTW, the article summary is wrong (and partly the article, too). What they're talking about is not a battery; it's a capacitor. Which means that even if the whole body is made of the stuff, it's not going to be enough energy capacity for reasonable range. Plus, you have to consider how it'll change your vehicle's weight, structural strength, etc. There is always a cost-benefit analysis to consider.

Still, it could potentially be useful for making less-critical structural elements (say, the bellypan) to use for buffering (rather than energy storage).

Re:Good (2, Insightful)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065894)

Modern batteries can rapid charge in minutes (given adequate cooling) and yield hundreds of miles of range.

There is also the issue of having an electrical grid that can handle that. Charging a battery in minutes with enough power to get you hundreds of miles takes a non-trivial amount of power, no matter how good your battery is.

Re:Good (4, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065990)

There is also the issue of having an electrical grid that can handle that. Charging a battery in minutes with enough power to get you hundreds of miles takes a non-trivial amount of power, no matter how good your battery is.

You don't draw it from the grid. You draw it from a battery bank. The battery bank is in turn trickle-charged from the grid.

And in case anyone's curious, yes, they do make extremely high power chargers. TARDEC got one last year that does 800kW [gas2.org] . I don't know how much that one cost, but ones in the ~250kW range are typically ~$125k-ish (and about the size of a vending machine). That may sound like a lot, but then again, a gas station generally costs $1-2m to build, and you have to pay for tear-down at end of life (tearing down a charger is a net gain, from scrap). Plus, expect prices to fall over time.

Chargers that big generally require that their connectors or even their cables be cooled. Which makes me wonder when we'll see the next logical step in that evolution -- having the charger provide coolant for the battery pack instead of the EV providing it. After all, why make the EV haul around a powerful cooling system when your charger already has one and is already bringing coolant all the way to the vehicle? All the vehicle should need is a connector for the coolant and ducting for it to travel through. If you use something like supercritical CO2 as a coolant, you won't even have to worry about coolant contamination or residual coolant being left over in the system.

The current fast-charging pseudo-standard, TESCO, doesn't do that, though. But in the future, I expect we'll ultimately see it.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066378)

You don't draw it from the grid. You draw it from a battery bank. The battery bank is in turn trickle-charged from the grid.

The problem is, a typical gas nozzle runs about a megawatt. Theres 20 of them at my local quickie-mart or whatever its called. Sometimes all are in use. Often half are in use. Even in the middle of the night at least one is in use. "Trickle Charge" is still going to be a couple megawatts, and in an area without that kind of service.

I admit the whole "fast charging" thing is pretty bogus. The furthest I've ever driven in one day was 500 miles and it was a torturous living hell. I dream of having a car that can't do that, so I have the perfectly socially acceptable excuse that my car simply can not go 500 miles per day. What a darn shame I'll be unable to sit in my car for 8 hours. Drat. Boo F-ing Hoo Hoo.

Re:Good (2, Informative)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066702)

The problem is, a typical gas nozzle runs about a megawatt. Theres 20 of them at my local quickie-mart or whatever its called. Sometimes all are in use. Often half are in use. Even in the middle of the night at least one is in use. "Trickle Charge" is still going to be a couple megawatts, and in an area without that kind of service.

Oh, certainly -- your "gas station" has to be able to "average" the amount of power it feeds out, plus losses -- there's no way around that. Of course, running counter to this is that since the vast majority of charging is done at home (and to a lesser extent, work), you don't actually need that many rapid chargers nationwide. Most of the lower-end rapid chargers (~40kW is sort of the cutoff for what's considered rapid charging) don't typically use battery banks, and these are typically installed just one charger per location to spread the load around (although the charger may have multiple connectors on it; when two EVs are hooked up, each charges at half-rate). There are very few of the higher power rapid chargers out there right now, so it's hard to draw generalizations, but one would expect you'd average several per location to better take advantage of a common battery bank. Probably nothing like the 8-16 pumps at your typical gas station. Gas stations load so many pumps into each location because of the not inconsiderable expense of excavation to install the fuel tanks, plus fuel delivery costs.

While studies suggest little to no need for new macro-scale infrastructure for mass adoption of EVs, there may be some local infrastructure improvements required, esp. if rapid charging for long, daytime EV trips takes off.

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065794)

That's why I have no emissions! Just for people like you.
On topic this isn't news until it's peer reviewed. Which it wont pass, they never do.

Re:Good (2, Funny)

TwiztidK (1723954) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065884)

I really hope we get this electric car thing figured out soon because I am just about sick of following smoke belching vehicles every day.

The electrical components of my gas burning vehicle shorted and caused the rest of the vehicle to be consumed by flames in a very smokey manner, certainly smokier than other car I've observed. As the electric parts of the car were responsible for said fire, it seems resonable that electric cars will burst into flames more often than gas burning cars. Therefore, it can be logically deduced that electric cars will result in much more smoke than the fossil fueled alternatives.

Re:Good (3, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066260)

As the electric parts of the car were responsible for said fire, it seems resonable that electric cars will burst into flames more often than gas burning cars. Therefore, it can be logically deduced that electric cars will result in much more smoke than the fossil fueled alternatives.

In what universe?

My microwave oven leaked and caused me to be exposed to some radiation. As the microwave oven was responsible for the radiation, it seems reasonable that houses with microwave ovens will release more radiation than houses with thermonuclear reactors. Therefore, it can be logically deduced that we should all use nuclear reactors to cook dinner. Ipso facto, etc, etc.

Look on the bright side: your train of logic has done an amazing job of demonstrating the "garbage, in garbage out" principle.

Re:Good (0, Offtopic)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065974)

I'm mostly annoyed with the smoke belching drivers. At least I don't have to worry about smokers on subway platforms anymore, but I still get naseous when the smell of someone holding a cigarette out of their window starts wafting in through my heater/AC.

Then again, if the cigarette smoke is coming into my car, maybe I should worry about their exhaust too...

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066304)

it doesn't solve anything, your just shifting the load onto our already decaying and dying electrical grid, which are connected to mainly COAL fired plants

not even considering the massive car sized toxic waste batteries that would be produced each year

Re:Good (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066606)

Smoke belching vehicles? How about electric car companies blowing smoke? Electric cars have been vaporware for years; they keep predicting that they'll bring an affordable one to the general market in "a year or two". Wait a year or two and it's "another year or two."

Re:Good (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066778)

Do you propose to force everyone to upgrade to an electric car once we figure out this 'electric car thing'. If so, I hope you are volunteering your bank account, as well!

Can't Wait. (5, Funny)

cohensh (1358679) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065396)

I can imagine it would make a multi-car pile up quite exciting. Just another effort to make real life more like a Michael Bay movie.

Re:Can't Wait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065574)

True. No need to buy a car alarm, though. Just leave it turned on so anyone who touches the car gets zapped with 30,000 V.

Re:Can't Wait. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065876)

As if most cars weren't already loaded with a volatile substance.

Re:Can't Wait. (1)

Adriax (746043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065888)

Accidents will be bad, but it will also cut down on the number of ricers out there. Darwin at work, lets see those lil shits drill mout holes into the charged capacitor that is their car's body.
They'll get a lovely blue light. Blue-white actually, and only for the split second that the rest of their lives entail.

Re:Can't Wait. (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066012)

Ricers? As in: asian-made vehicles? I don't get it.

Re:Can't Wait. (2, Informative)

Adriax (746043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066190)

Re:Can't Wait. (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066472)

Thank you for the insight. I will have to save that site for future use. Google didn't give me that definition with "define: ricer".

Allready there (1)

jvillain (546827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065416)

I thought my rusting chebby was acting like a battery.

The new material? DiHydrogen Monoxide (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065440)

Step 1: Fill the cars with DiHydrogen Monoxide
Step 2: Hoist the car several meters in the air
Step 3: Place a paddlewheel connected to generator underneath
Step 4: Open the car door
Step 5: ...
Step 6: Profit.

Re:The new material? DiHydrogen Monoxide (3, Funny)

dfsmith (960400) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065556)

Are you crazy? Dihydrogen monoxide kills over 4000 people a year in the US alone! [cdc.gov]

Re:The new material? DiHydrogen Monoxide (3, Funny)

nicknamenotavailable (1730990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065722)

Are you crazy? Dihydrogen monoxide kills over 4000 people a year in the US alone!

Replace the 'dihydrogen monoxide' with 'hydroxyethane'.
It might not improve things, but it seems like more fun.

Re:The new material? DiHydrogen Monoxide (4, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066414)

Dihydrogen monoxide is a gateway drug. Most adults who are addicted to hydroxethane drank DHMO when they were children.

Re:The new material? DiHydrogen Monoxide (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066114)

Furthermore, DiHydrogen Monoxide is used by the Oil Companies, the Coal Companies, and the Tobacco Companies. And Big Pharma!

Another wonderful fantasy (5, Informative)

Whuffo (1043790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065446)

According to TFA their plan is to make the body panels act as one plate of a huge capacitor. I can't even begin to list all the technical flaws in their proposal; just reading it made my head hurt. They really should run their promotional pieces past a real engineer before spreading them all over the net.

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065710)

Nonsense.

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (1)

PetiePooo (606423) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065730)

Mod parent up. From the short, non-technical video blurb, it sounds like a capacitor, not a battery.

Puncture a lead-acid battery, and you've got an acid spill. Puncture a charged capacitor, and you've got fireworks!

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065758)

Can you imagine someone tries to grab a hold of the door handle while he is standing in the rain,
and somehow wires got crossed (its a toyota),.....oh the irony of it all.

"If you can't fight them, give them electrifying"

premature discharge (2, Insightful)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065866)

The problem I can't even fathom how to solve is the premature discharge problem, imagine the insulator being worn by vibration between the two panels or an accident. To make it safe the panels would need to be divided into cells that have 1 V max, how the hell do you divide up a solid panel into so many small pieces cheaply.

Re:premature discharge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066048)

Based on the popularity of materials science words, I predict it will be solved with some combination of nano, diamond, tube, fiber, silicon, dope.

Idea... (1)

denzacar (181829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066686)

Well... I can see that being done.

If we are talking industrial production, that should be no different than making large quantities of PCBs. Only with somewhat simpler design.
Just print the thin layer of the conductor mesh over both sides of the insulator (preferably something foldable like fabric), cut it into shape, cut out the now "open" pieces (easy with an automated optical/electric/magnetic/Chinese system - take your pick) and reconnect where needed, isolate the whole thing on both sides.
There. You have your large, cheap, foldable sheet of capacitive fabric made out of many small pieces in a parallel connection.

You still have the problem of a bunch of big fuckin capacitors roaming the streets just waiting for a fender bender to turn into big balls of lightning.

On a plus side - no one will ever key your brand new paint job.
Or at least it will be easy to identify the perpetrator as he/she will be found right next to the car.

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065940)

According to TFA their plan is to make the body panels act as one plate of a huge capacitor. I can't even begin to list all the technical flaws in their proposal; just reading it made my head hurt. They really should run their promotional pieces past a real engineer before spreading them all over the net.

I have visions of car crashes involving brilliant blue flashes and passengers exploding from the sudden discharge of electricity. Then again, we're already driving around in steel coffins filled with gallons of explosively flammable liquid so there's not much left to lose.

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066644)

Except that despite what hollywood would have you believe, gasoline is not actually explosive unless it is vaporized (which it will do at room temperature, but the gasoline would have to be spread out in order for enough to vaporize in order to explode)

A capacitor holding enough electricity to power a car getting shorted would certainly create a nice explosion though.

Re:Another wonderful fantasy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066642)

Definitely.
Not only the concept is flawed, it is also full of omissions.
The materials needed to build the energy-storing panels would weight approximately the same as the non-energy-storing panels plus independent storage units if the mechanical properties are to be preserved. So there's no weight savings nor improved range, in addition to not going to work.
I'm an optimistic when it relates wo the future of electric cars and battery tech, but this is just a distraction.

Dow 10,000 !!!! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065476)

from 1999 [youtube.com] .

Yours In Miami,
Kilgore Trout

Problem with that (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065502)

Car batteries want to be 200 to 300 volts. This is achieved by stringing a bunch of cells together in series. If body panel or structural member is a cell, connecting in series will be difficult if not impossible. If parts were made from layers of material (i.e. cells in series within a body panel) then you've got this relatively thin 300V battery on the outside of the car waiting to make contact with stuff in a crash. Normally batteries are kept inside a strong box with a relay to disconnect from the outside when the car is off or in a crash. They try to protect the battery from damage too, by putting it down the middle, or between the rear wheels. Unless you're Tesla, this sounds like an infeasible ideal.

Re:Problem with that (1, Informative)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065646)

The typical car battery is 12 volts with 6 cells linked in series with ~2 volt drop for each. Hardly the 200-300 volts that you're thinking are required. Even if a 200-300 voltage potential was required, you could take a low voltage source, convert to AC and step up the voltage with a transformer. Not that big of a deal.

Re:Problem with that (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065746)

The typical car's starter battery isn't. The traction battery in a hybrid is, and I'm guessing so is the battery pack in a full electric.

Re:Problem with that (1)

Xiterion (809456) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066248)

...you could take a low voltage source, convert to AC and step up the voltage with a transformer. Not that big of a deal.

While that is doable, it's not trivial. Even at 95% conversion efficiency that's a nontrivial amount of waste power to get rid of. Transformers also get kinda chunky with increasing power throughput requirements.

Re:Problem with that (3, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066574)

Hardly the 200-300 volts that you're thinking are required.

He's anthropomorphizing it when he writes "Car batteries want to be 200 to 300 volts".

Real engineers know you can gin up a set of equations to optimize an overall system. Not surprisingly, an electric cars optimum voltage and current end up suspiciously nearby, yet somewhat below, industrial heavy equipment and diesel electric traction motors of the same power rating. Lower it a bit because the power levels are a bit lower (plenty of 3000 HP locomotives, not many 3000 HP electric cars... yet). Also lower it a bit because insulation requirements are a bit stricter for morons. Lower it a bit for temperature derating, run the car in death valley, etc. Also lower it a bit for battery reliability, plates shorting, vibration etc. You end up in the 300ish volt range for "car power levels"

Similarly, your average electric motorcycle should be happy around 60 volts. Which is suspiciously close to where they seem to be.

Re:Problem with that (1)

NeoSkandranon (515696) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065706)

I think even Mr. Tesla would have had trouble with this really...

Re:Problem with that (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065738)

Car batteries want to be 200 to 300 volts. This is achieved by stringing a bunch of cells together in series. If body panel or structural member is a cell, connecting in series will be difficult if not impossible.

Great, even more incentive for tailgaiters...

Re:Problem with that (2, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065968)

Car batteries want to be 200 to 300 volts.

Car batteries don't like being anthropomorphized.

Re:Problem with that (1)

cmiller173 (641510) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066626)

Car batteries don't like being anthropomorphized.

They hate it when you do that.

Lighter is not always a good thing. (0, Troll)

InsaneProcessor (869563) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065510)

"making vehicles up to 15 percent lighter"
There is now a 35% better chance of a fatality in an accident.

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065694)

Lighter doesn't necessarily mean it'll me more dangerous. It all has to do with how well the material absorbs energy. Example: this recent article [slashdot.org] . Besides, don't forget about airbags, which weigh next to nothing.

Also, heavier vehicles do more damage to whatever they hit. A Honda Civic smashing into a wall is one thing, but I wouldn't want to be in a Honda Civic that gets hit by a Hummer.

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065838)

Also, heavier vehicles do more damage to whatever they hit. A Honda Civic smashing into a wall is one thing, but I wouldn't want to be in a Honda Civic that gets hit by a Hummer.

One thing to consider is that, if we ever got regular passenger vehicles to be substantially lighter, then we could pass additional safety regulations for vehicles above a certain weight. There are going to have to be trucks on the road, and so we have to account for that, but there's no real reason why Hummers can't be made subject to additional rules as to when and where you can drive them, if not made illegal for street use altogether.

Lighter vehicles don't necessarily mean less safety. A lot of the danger from car crashes comes not from speed alone, but by the massive amount of momentum of an extremely heavy machine going very fast. If all of our vehicles were much lighter, then we'd all be much safer.

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065856)

Something else to consider would be the effect of a crash on the "external battery". TFA doesn't address this and if the substance isn't stable you might get a small version of a punctured Li-Ion. (Small fires on/around the vehicle are not good after a crash)

Might be a tech to watch but with the "still pretty far from commercialization" problem I don't expect to see this anytime soon.

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31065896)

Which is more dangerous?

Two Hummers crashing head on into each other at a net speed of 120 mph.
Two Civics crashing head on into each other at a net speed of 120 mph.

This is a serious question. Which situation will be more dangerous?

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066230)

If Hummer would be willing to release their full crash test results breakdown, that'd be easier to evaluate.

Really, it's not that simple. All you can say is that the Civic will *decelerate faster* than the Hummer. But then again, you can say the same thing about a Hummer hitting a bus [wordpress.com] . No matter what size vehicle you are on the road, unless you're a bus or a semi, there are much heavier vehicles out there than you. Which means that you need to be able to withstand sudden deceleration.

But let's look at the Hummer/Civic crash. Let's put two vehicles heading toward each other at 30mph, with a completely inelastic collision, and say that the Hummer weighed twice as much as the Civic (both vehicles loaded). The net result is a single mass moving in the direction the Hummer was, at 20mph. The Hummer suffers a net deceleration of 20mph, while the Civic suffers a net deceleration of 40mph.

Now let's look at a Hummer vs. an ultralight vehicle that weighs a quarter as much as the Hummer. Same crash situation. The Hummer suffers a net deceleration of 12mph, while the ultralight suffers a net deceleration of 48mph.

So by making the ultralight half the weight of the Civic, it only decelerates 20% more in the accident than the Civic. Not what you might expect (twice as much). The same thing applies to a Hummer and a bus. The difference in deceleration between a Hummer hitting a bus and a Civic hitting a bus isn't much at all.

Now, what does this deceleration distance mean? That's the 10-million dollar question. What it means varies *dramatically* from vehicle to vehicle. First off, you have the length of your crumple zone. A longer crumple zone means more room to crush when an accident happens. The Hummer, with its steeply raked windshield and relatively short front end, doesn't leave you with all that much. Secondly, you need to look at how resistant the passenger compartment is to penetration. This varies tremendously.

There's one additional issue. Right now we're talking about head-on collisions. But that's not the only type of accident damage. For example, SUVs are famously bad in rollover accidents. Roof crush strength needs to be proportional to the weight of your vehicle, so making your vehicle heavier makes that a lot harder, since you don't want massive pillars holding up the roof (that'd look ugly, and SUVs are all about style).

So what do car accident statistics say? Statistically, last I checked, your odds of survival are best in a mid-sized SUV. The large SUV class actually had a lower survival rate than the mid-sized class did. However, most notably, there was a lot more variation *within* classes than *between* them. That is, to say, the safest cars were a heck of a lot safer than the least safe SUVs.

One final note: most vehicles today are steel-frame construction. But composites completely change the picture. Composite vehicles are both lighter but much better in accidents. Furthermore, they don't irreversibly deform, so there's no getting trapped in the car. This is ultimately the direction the auto industry will go.

Corr: (1)

Rei (128717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066310)

Just caught a typo:

The net result is a single mass moving in the direction the Hummer was, at 20mph.

That should read, "at 10mph". Also, re-reading your post, you were postulating Hummer vs. Hummer and Civic vs. Civic, not Civic vs. Hummer. Sorry about that. :)

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

TimHunter (174406) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066612)

Not disagreeing with you. I just want to expand on this one statement.

No matter what size vehicle you are on the road, unless you're a bus or a semi, there are much heavier vehicles out there than you. Which means that you need to be able to withstand sudden deceleration.

And even if you are a bus or a semi, there's always 1) bridge abutments, and 2) mountainsides. The moral of the story is that there's always something out there with more inertia than you.

Re:Lighter is not always a good thing. (1)

thedonger (1317951) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066262)

What about two Civics having a head-on collision while the drivers are getting hummers? And which matters more, the speed of the Civics or the speed of the hummers?

So this is how it starts. (1)

nicknamenotavailable (1730990) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065564)

First
"New Material Transforms Car Bodies Into Batteries"

After that
"Body Heat Energy Generation" [slashdot.org]

Then we're all turned into batteries and the Matrix begins

Re:So this is how it starts. (1)

Adriax (746043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066156)

So the machines are going to create huge farms of vat grown cars suspended in oil filled pods, with their onboard computers wired into a reality simulator, so they can harvest their energy?

Sounds like a Cars and Matrix crossover. Somewhere, someone in making a Neo/Mater slashfic.

In other news person electrocuted in fender bender (1)

Fallen Kell (165468) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065626)

I can see the headlines now. People being electrocuted when involved in an accident which causes a "short" over the car frame...

On the other hand, (1)

snspdaarf (1314399) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065760)

It will cut down on the number of dogs pissing on your tires.

Re:In other news person electrocuted in fender ben (1)

kehren77 (814078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065918)

I vote we make that a feature. Seriously, screw car alarms. I want my car to electrocute potential thieves (annoying neighbor kids, etc....).

Anyone else see this as potentially dangerous? (1)

Saishuuheiki (1657565) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065650)

Not to be overly simplistic, but wouldn't this be dangerous?

If you get into an accident with batteries in the car, you're fine as long as the battery doesn't hit you as it's destroyed. If your entire car is a battery, what is to stop it from electrocuting you when metal contorts in a weird way to cause you to be part of a short-circuit? Not to mention implications when you have to extract someone from a wrecked car

Slashdot does it again! (5, Funny)

TimHunter (174406) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065736)

Once again, in less than 30 minutes the Slashdot crowd finds multiple fatal flaws in the results of years of work by highly-trained educated people. And frequently without even bothering to RTFA! Is there nothing we can't do?

NOBODY expects the Slashdot Community! The chief weapon of the Slashdot Community is presumption...presumption and arrogance...arrogance and presumption.... Our *two* weapons are presumption and arrogance...and cynicism.... Our *three* weapons are presumption, arrogance, and cynicism...and an overweening sense of entitlement.... Our *four*...no.... *Amongst* our weapons... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as arrogance, presumption...I'll come in again.

Re:Slashdot does it again! (4, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065824)

Is there nothing we can't do?

Find a date for Valentines day?

Re:Slashdot does it again! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066172)

This year it's February 14.

Thank you, thank you.

Re:Slashdot does it again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066204)

That's easy!

February 14th.

Re:Slashdot does it again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066050)

maybe they overlooked stuff, hmm ? they arent auto engineers, theyre chemists without any engineering training. lets not apply the same bigoted view to the words of highly experienced slashdot engineers, eh ?
assuming a technical message board populated by hundreds of people working in the industry is wrong is a presumptive, arrogant, and cynical view. or in other words, dear sir - u r a dumbass stfu.

 

The scientists are working with Volvo (2, Informative)

copponex (13876) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066244)

Read the article. [imperial.ac.uk]

Researchers from Imperial College London and their European partners, including Volvo Car Corporation, are developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts.

Now, take your foot out of your mouth, and enjoy the following quote:

"When men are most sure and arrogant they are commonly most mistaken, giving views to passion without that proper deliberation which alone can secure them from the grossest absurdities." -David Hume

I'm living proof that slashdot is mostly full of arrogant people who enjoy misinformed and cynical deconstruction above all else.

Re:Slashdot does it again! (4, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066258)

You remember the story about someone wanting to power a car off of hydrogen that is produced by burning magnesium in water?

Some ideas are just so stupid that they are put on the main page for us to poop on them.

Why is this one stupid?

Cost is first, this is built on top of carbon fiber which is already pretty damn expensive without also turning it into a battery. Yea, one day they may bring the cost down, but it is not in the reasonable future.

Kaboom is second. Its not just about energy storage, its about where you store the energy. With electric powered cars and petrol powered cars the energy is stored in a safe spot in the car, the body of the car is about as unsafe as you can get.

Re:Slashdot does it again! (1)

rdavidson3 (844790) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066516)

I don't understand... can you provide a car analogy for me?

Re:Slashdot does it again! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066726)

As an engineer, it is my JOB to think of reasons why something might not work, not to blindly accept the claims of scientists desperate to receive continued funding. I'm skeptical of claims about the Moller SkyCar too; "smart" people have been working on that for over 30 years. That doesn't mean it is not a scam.

Link to original article (3, Informative)

chinmay7 (776189) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065776)

Why do I have to click through two blogs with fluff to reach the original article on PhysOrg? - http://www.physorg.com/news184585514.html [physorg.com]

I can only imagine... (2, Insightful)

E. Edward Grey (815075) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065828)

ME: Can you help me out here? I scraped a concrete barrier while trying to park my car.
REPAIR SHOP: Sure we can. That will be seven thousand dollars.

neat idea (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065840)

The idea is a very interesting one and the problem isn't so much the risk of electrical shock (done correctly there isn't one) but the cost of the material and the ease to which the material can be replaced if it ever fails. With normal car batteries, replacing them is easy. Just unhook the +/-
from the battery and lift it out. With the car body acting as a battery, if something fails, the entire material must be removed. This sounds to me to be fairly expensive as well as having to replace the material which its self may have a fairly significant cost. Over time that will be less the case but the problem of replacing a faulty "battery" remains.

Re:neat idea (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066014)

With normal car batteries, replacing them is easy. Just unhook the +/-

I know what the "+" and "-" leads do, but "/" ? Is that the "spin" lead or something?

Re:neat idea (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066654)

I'm not worried about electrical shock as much as the first fender-bender to ding one of the panels turning it into an arc welder. This is also a step backwards from unibody construction; any components designed for storing energy would have to be made from easily replaceable panels.

Re:neat idea (1)

mhajicek (1582795) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066760)

I would say there is a real and present danger of shock when your battery is you vehicle skin. I've seen a lot of cars with puncture damage. Puncturing such a charged sheet, be it battery or capacitor, would result in rapid, high-amperage discharge. This would cause melting and vaporization of the material, releasing toxic vapors and probably starting the whole vehicle on fire. Adjacent panels, when exposed to the radiant heat and spattering molten metal, would have a high likelihood of melting their insulating layers and shorting as well. I don't really want to be sitting inside a 100 kilowatt-hour battery when it self-discharges over a matter of seconds.

Safety? (1)

zookeeperme (1722156) | more than 4 years ago | (#31065880)

How well is this going to protect me when John Q. Redneck ploughs into me with his mid-90s pick-up truck?

a better idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066082)

Harness the hot air from my mother-in-law's back-seat driving!

It's a capcitor! (4, Interesting)

reg106 (256893) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066220)

The device is a capacitor that can also support mechanical load. The first hint is that they call it energy storage, but never actually call it a battery (though it may "replace a battery"). In the linked video, they are using a custom device (indicated by the Imperial College in the upper left), that is also labeled as capacitor charge-discharge indicator. The storage device appears to be two sheets of carbon fiber mesh held together with a "multifunctional resin", i.e. a nonconductive material with a high dielectric constant that is also capable of supporting a large mechanical load (or rather, binding to the carbon fiber so that it supports a large mechanical load, i.e. a composite). The idea of using ultracapacitors to replace batteries has been around for a long while. Ultracapactiors usually use esoteric materials and have problems with leakage over long periods of time, but have met with success in some applications. The military has funded a lot of research for ultracapacitors to replace batteries for the electronics on missiles, an ideal application since missiles potentially sit on the shelf for years, and then need to function precisely for a very short period of time. (the cap would be charged as part of the launch procedure.)

In the example mentioned in the video (GPS case made of the material), I'm not sure why it would reduce wiring, since the capacitor would still need to be charged, just as if it were being fed by the cars electrical system. I suspect there are some real advances in the work, but the interesting features don't come through in this video for public consumption.

Re:It's a capcitor! (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066618)

Ultracapactiors usually use esoteric materials and have problems with leakage over long periods of time,

Yeah, what he said, also immense internal resistance compared to say, a camera flash cap, or a nicad battery.

A farad is a wonderful thing to have... unless it has ten ohms of internal resistance.

Could make life hard for the fire service. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31066266)

First off... IAAFF.
This should make vehicular extrication after a crash *interesting*.
I can't wait to cut into the A post (front roof supporting structural member) and have it hit me with 200+ VDC!
Hopefully they figure out some safety measures for this one before putting it into action.
Hybrids are exciting enough.

Verizon PR is spinning the story (-1, Offtopic)

doomy (7461) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066338)

Here is his twitter feed.

http://twitter.com/JNels

Apparently they are blocking outgoing access to a port 80 of 4chan, cause they felt there was an attack being generated from the 4chan IP range. The twitter feed is hilarious.

Shocking (1)

RedTeflon (1695836) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066356)

Does this mean Im going to shock myself every time I get in the car by grounding it?
Couldn't they just put socks on the car and walk around on the carpet for a while?

Do I have to throw my car away every 3 years? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066432)

Lithium Ion batteries degrade whether used or just stored. Whether it's technically possible or not it must make care manufacturers drool at the thought of cars that only last 3 years.

Bonus (4, Funny)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066502)

Researchers are currently developing a new auto body material that can store and release electrical energy like a battery.

And it would make the neighbor's dog peeing on my car a pay-per-view moment.

and also.. (1)

greywire (78262) | more than 4 years ago | (#31066696)

Lets slap a layer of solar collecting material onto this and grab some more power too.

One thing that occurs to me though. What happens if you get in an accident and the material is compromised? Would there be a potential electrocution issue?

Maybe you could also build security into this.. if you break in, the body zaps you..

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