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Volvo Developing Nano-Battery Tech Built Into Car Body Panels

timothy posted about a year ago | from the thinking-outside-the-boxy dept.

Transportation 178

cartechboy writes "Electric vehicle batteries have three problems — they're big, heavy, and expensive. But what if you could shift EV batteries away from being big blocks under the car and engineer them into the car itself? Research groups at Imperial College London working with Volvo have spent three years developing a way to do exactly that. The researchers are storing energy in nano structure batteries woven into carbon fiber--which can then be formed into car body panels. These panel-style batteries charge and store energy faster than normal EV batteries, and they are also lighter and more eco-friendly. The research team has built a Volvo S80 prototype featuring the panels where the battery panel material has been used for the trunk lid. With the materials used on the doors, roof and hood, estimated range for a mid-size electric car is around 80 miles."

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Hazard (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#45153709)

Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

Re:Hazard (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#45153805)

Yeah, cost of repairing small damage just goes through the roof if you do this.

Re:Hazard (5, Interesting)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#45154059)

Well, let me ask you a slightly different question. How much more expensive would a trunk panel be if it were a battery?

Cars are moving towards carbon fiber and other exotic materials today because of the reduction in weight and thus improvement in MPG. So let’s assume your car already had a fiber carbon trunk which is going to be expensive to repair. If the marginal cost to add the battery function is low then you would still be better off.

Re:Hazard (5, Insightful)

P-niiice (1703362) | about a year ago | (#45154109)

The cost will be marginal, but the price will not.

Re:Hazard (2)

Vanderhoth (1582661) | about a year ago | (#45154245)

I'd like to think a positive for having expensive parts would be people might be a little more careful driving if they knew it would cost them $10,000 to replace a scratch on a door, but, seeing as how most people don't put that kind of value on their own lives, I guess that would be too much to ask.

Also there are still those jerks that ram shopping carts into new cars in parking lots. I only had my new car for three months when I came out of the store to a huge dent in the back passenger side door. I was quoted $2500 to have fixed at three separate places, so I decided the dent might make the car look ghetto and be a detente for would be thieves. Kept the $2500 and the "security enhancement" and haven't had so much as another scratch in the seven years I've had the car.

Re:Hazard (1)

gl4ss (559668) | about a year ago | (#45154293)

having to replace something like the roof is nowadays easily enough to put the whole car on insurance sale.. that meaning that the cost of repair isn't worth it. it's a structural part and expensive to fix even if it isn't functioning as a battery.

what I'm interested in, how long a range would you have if you just made 8cm thick bottom for the car out of the stuff?

Re:Hazard (1)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about a year ago | (#45154397)

Yeah, cost of repairing small damage just goes through the roof if you do this.

So what happens if you put in flat rechargeable modules like the flat 6v batteries in Polaroid SX-70 film packs [time.com] , in various places (upgraded of course), like attached to the back seat on the trunk side, or just use arrays of Li-ion batteries all over the place? Not embedded, as small modules that can be replaced as they fail?

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153813)

I believe while you were trying humor, these batteries are just about fire proof. Garages will make a great deal of money from replacing the panels.
And most of the cars today are plastics anyway, not to mention if you get into a minor accident, ie a fender bender, or something slightly less your car is pretty much totaled, so if your worried about fire a EV is the least of your problems, which actually is pretty funny, because of the money you paid for the EV, pales in comparison to a standard small car, even after you get the bill to repair a standard vehicle.

Re:Hazard (2)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45153851)

Carbon fibre batteries don't pose that kind of fire risk.

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154061)

Really? They don't store energy that can be released when the battery containing the energy is damaged? Anything that stores energy, particularly electrical energy, is a fire risk, particularly when it involves sudden grievous damage to the structure containing that energy.

Re:Hazard (4, Informative)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154271)

I didn't say that they don't pose *ANY*... I said that they don't pose *THAT KIND OF*.

The fire hazard that exists in lithium batteries exists because of a potential for a chemical reaction between the lithium and any nearby moisture. Carbon fibre batteries pose no such danger at all.

That said, if sufficiently damaged, the result with a carbon fibre battery is approximately the same as when a capacitor gets damaged. It is shorted out and becomes useless. The energy is released in an instant when the short occurs, just like a static spark... but since pure carbon is not especially flammable (eg: diamonds) a fire is still not terribly likely (still theoretically possible, but unlikely).

Re:Hazard (4, Informative)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#45154655)

pure carbon is not especially flammable (eg: diamonds)

Pure carbon is quite flammable. Try check out the MSDS for graphite [hawaii.edu] . The problem with diamonds is their surface area is relatively low, but you can burn them slowly with a hot enough flame and high enough concentration of oxygen.

Re:Hazard (3, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | about a year ago | (#45154413)

Anything that stores energy, particularly electrical energy, is a fire risk, particularly when it involves sudden grievous damage to the structure containing that energy

That's just not true. There are many ways of storing power. Take hydrogen for example: you can store power by cracking water to get it, but how do you store it? If you store it in some compressed gas form, you're asking for trouble. If you store it in a big low-pressure balloon on top the bus (people actually do this), the practical risk is low, since with any rupture the hydrogen will move up quickly. But you can also store it as an metal hydride, which requires electrical power to release at any speed. Yes, it can catch fire, but it will just burn slowly for a long time, and can be extinguished normally.

Another example are the kinetic batteries occasionally used by satellites - storing power in a flywheel sounds dangerous, but not if you make the flywheel of soft plastic, so that it lacks the structural integrity to fly off the axel and will instead just shred itself if damaged. That was prototyped for electric car battery use, but the need to gimbal-mount the batteries was prohibitive.

Really, for electric car batteries the bar is pretty low - as safe as a tank of gasoline. For home solar to ever really take off it will be a greater safety concern, at least if you want to store enough power to run your house for a day (which seems like a minimum to not need grid power). I do wonder if the flywheel concept might not be worth a second look for the home - weight no longer an issue, and no need for gimbals.

Re:Hazard (2)

ohieaux (2860669) | about a year ago | (#45154169)

What exactly are the failure modes of these batteries? If they can charge more quickly, then the assumption would be that they discharge more quickly.

1) Failure due to short circuiting the capacitor via mechanical failure (accident)
2) Failure due to normal wear.
3) Failure due to material defects.
4) Failure due to improper installation...

Really, there are 100's of ways that the system could be compromised. Some may be mitigated with logic in the car to identify failing components. But, instantaneous failure modes must be accounted for.

And, when every panel contains power, could the jaws of life ever be used on one of these vehicles?

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154379)

Carbon fibre batteries don't pose that kind of fire risk.

First of all, the article doesn't say anything about how the "batteries" are manufactured or what they're made of. All it says is they are using "nano structure batteries and super-capacitors", which are then sandwiched in the carbon fiber panels.

The primary danger from current batteries is the fact you have a bunch of lithium sitting around. So if it DOES catch fire, it burns really fucking hot and you can't just spray it with water, you need special chemical extinguishers.
Now, carbon fiber (and the polymer resin used to form and shape) ARE both capable of burning, but they're not really any more risky than current plastic panels. The question is what kind of chemicals are being used in the "nano structure" batteries and super-caps? The articles imply but never actually come out and say what they're comprised of.

Also, it would really suck to get stuck inside one of those things, it's not like emergency workers can just cut it open... because they'll risk discharging the caps.
It's a neat idea, but I'm not sure that exterior body panels are quite the right "fit" for this tech. Maybe part of the underbody, trunk liner, but I think enclosing the passenger compartment is just asking for trouble.

Re:Hazard (1)

PerfectionLost (1004287) | about a year ago | (#45153861)

More like good bye after market vendors.

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153863)

Troll

Re:Hazard (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | about a year ago | (#45153865)

Naysayers say Nay!

Re: Hazard (2)

binarylarry (1338699) | about a year ago | (#45154153)

But we Slashdotters say Ni!

Re: Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154431)

But we don't demand shubberies.

(wait for it...)

Re:Hazard (4, Insightful)

beckett (27524) | about a year ago | (#45153893)

Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

Do you walk around with a phone thinking "in my pocket, near my crotch is a continuing, unending fire risk that occasionally makes phone calls".

A flaming car is an exceptional event, but say 'hello' to a rash of volvo body panel thefts!

Re:Hazard (1)

I'm New Around Here (1154723) | about a year ago | (#45154121)

Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

Do you walk around with a phone thinking "in my pocket, near my crotch is a continuing, unending fire risk that occasionally makes phone calls".
 

No, but we also don't stab screwdrivers through our cell phones while they are in our pockets.

Try that for us and see if you have a positive result. Make sure you have a full charge first.

Re:Hazard (1)

grommit (97148) | about a year ago | (#45154305)

For the portion of the population that has a habit of stabbing a screwdriver into their car body panels, this is not the car for them. I'd hazard to guess that very few people have that habit.

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154555)

Stabbing anther car into the body panel of your car is not an exceptional event though. Not to mention random assholes that think it'll be fun to watch your car burst into flame and carry pocket knives.

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154135)

A flaming car is an exceptional event, but say 'hello' to a rash of volvo body panel thefts!

Somehow I think it's harder to use chop shops to cover the origin of these "batteries" without breaking them beyond repair. And are you sure a bunch of thieves won't instead win Darwin Awards?

Re:Hazard (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about a year ago | (#45153941)

Spontaneous Combustion? Naw, just a little water would be all that's needed and it wouldn't matter if the power source is one big lump, like a bunch of batteries next to each other or spread out all over the car, taking your house with it. [autoweek.com]

To your other point, auto manufacturers have been shifting more and more technology into cars which prevents your local mom and pop car repair from fixing them requiring dealer only servicing or programming services. Even then, you can't get things fixed properly, even with headlights. [7machine.com] Auto manufacturers aren't the only ones trying to squeeze third party repair technicians out of the market, Nikon stopped selling parts to camera repair shops last year. [ksl.com]

Re:Hazard (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153959)

The summary appears to be incorrect / misunderstood. The battery panels appear to sit alongside the bodywork, effectively filling in un-used space, not forming the bodywork itself.

Re:Hazard (1)

RayHs (888369) | about a year ago | (#45154171)

As a plus, the setup now doubles as reactive armor.

Re:Hazard (2)

kheldan (1460303) | about a year ago | (#45154291)

"spontaneously combust"

If by that you mean if you get in an accident and one or more battery packs gets physically damaged, self-discharges catastrophically, and starts a fire? Yes, I would consider that to be a serious drawback to this idea. Not that concentrating all your energy storage capacity in one place is all that much better (bigger BOOM! if damage occurs to it) but on the other hand having the battery pack in one central location on the vehicle makes it easier to protect and harder to damage in a garden-variety fender-bender. Think of it this way: What if you decided to distribute the gasoline storage capability of an internal-combustion engine automobile across lots of little tanks stored in the body panels? Insane, right? You'd never do it, it would turn the entire vehicle into one giant rolling fire hazard even worse than rear-endering an old Ford Pinto Runabout. While small battery packs distributed throughout the body panels is a significantly smaller risk than distributing gasoline throughout, it's still a risk. Of lesser but still considerable concern is the fact that an accident that leaves the vehicle otherwise functional/driveable could immediately and drastically reduce the total range-per-charge because of damaged battery packs. This is something that you couldn't as easily ignore as a crumpled fender or dented door.

So far as high-capacity battery packs and fire hazard from catastrophic self-discharge are concerned: Shouldn't there be (if there isn't already) some sort of fire-suppression/fire-control designed into the packs themselves, or at least mounted in the immediate vicinity of the battery packs? Something heat activated perhaps?

Re:Hazard (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154371)

It's Volvo. The carbon woven batteries will be conservative, safe, cornered and reassuringly explosive. The Pinto Moment is back!
Carbon fiber by itself is a fire hazard, so they must have already something in their Swedish native indian pipes to solve it.

Re:Hazard (1)

intermodal (534361) | about a year ago | (#45154387)

Sure, that's one concern, but to me, it's less of a concern than I'd have for firemen responding to a car fire or car accident. There's a lot of question-marks on what that would actually mean for both occupants and rescuers.

One of the best reasons to keep the battery packs in the bottom of a car is to keep them protected.

Re:Hazard (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45154857)

One of the best reasons to keep the battery packs in the bottom of a car is to keep them protected.

So when they burn they've got something above them to cook?

Re:Hazard (0)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | about a year ago | (#45154719)

Great, so now it's not just one battery pack in the back that's a fire risk, the whole exterior of the car could spontaneously combust at any moment. Oh, and good bye independant body shops.

Yeah, and what about the stupid idea of building fuel tanks into the wings of planes?

Jesus H Christ what the fuck is the matter with this site? I never met as many Debbie Downers in one place in all my life!

Re:Hazard (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | about a year ago | (#45154829)

I know. It's not like battery technologies are any different. I always expect my alkaline, lead-acid, agm, nicad, NiMH, etc batteries to go up in flames at all times. Hell i remember when my tv remote exploded once.... ohh yeah that never happened.

No one said anything about putting lithium in carbon fiber, unless you are suggesting that you are. If so i would like to subscribe to your amusing newsletter.

And the best part... (1)

mellon (7048) | about a year ago | (#45153731)

...is that it provides people with a really strong incentive not to sideswipe you, since all that energy would be dumped into your car when you hit the panel. I am sure the pyrotechnics would be quite pretty.

Re:And the best part... (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about a year ago | (#45154129)

"If the energy of the crash doesn't kill you, if the batteries getting shorted 3 inches from your mangled leg also don't, and don't start a fire in process, please enjoy this free kindle to read a book while the firemen fire out how to use the jaws of life to get you out"

Re:And the best part... (1)

bob_super (3391281) | about a year ago | (#45154175)

I'm missing a "gu" here: "figure out".

Re:And the best part... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154377)

Eh, I think I prefer the mental image of the firemen using some kind of cannon to launch the jaws of life at a car.

I wonder how many of you saw the photo and thought (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153749)

Hey if THAT guy can install it, maybe I CAN!

Solar panels (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153751)

Wouldn't this work well with some kind of solar panel technology that charges the panels. You would never have to plug it in.

Re:Solar panels (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45153791)

Only if the density of solar energy available were actually sufficient.

It isn't,

Re:Solar panels (5, Insightful)

Nadaka (224565) | about a year ago | (#45154091)

It is if you park near the focus point of one of the parabolic death ray buildings.

Bring on the truly disposable cars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153753)

Seriously, am I the only one who thinks this is the most retarded idea ever?

So now you've made the batteries an integral part of the structure of the car.
A. They're unreplacable.
B. Now any structural failure could cause the batteries to discharge
C. Potentially any surface on the car is now a shock hazard.

I'm sure there's a few others somebody else can come up with.

Re:Bring on the truly disposable cars! (2)

PPH (736903) | about a year ago | (#45153855)

Bubba whips out his power drill to mount a CB antenna on the fender.

Re:Bring on the truly disposable cars! (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#45154053)

Ricer Randy whips out his dad's power drill to mount a whale tail on the fender.

Also a very likely circumstance.

Re:Bring on the truly disposable cars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154571)

[Sob] What a tragedy! I'm really going to miss that drill.

Re:Bring on the truly disposable cars! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154019)

A. Only a problem if they have a non-reversible aging problem. This isn't necessary the case.
B. No. Only very specific structural failures, a dent or similar deformation doesn't damage the battery function. Complete piercing can in some cases cause short circuit of the pierced segment. Isolating each segment from each other is trivial. The image clearly shows at least 6 segments. If the damage causes more than 20% battery loss the mechanical failure will make the car unusable anyway.
C. I don't see any voltage listed but even if the batteries are charged to a dangerous voltage it won't be more dangerous than any dishwasher or refrigerator.

Yes, you are the only one who thinks this is the most retarded idea ever.

Exploding Cars (1)

SpaceManFlip (2720507) | about a year ago | (#45154127)

most dishwashers and refrigerators run off of 120V AC power in the USA, so the voltage they operate on is definitely dangerous. However, they do not pose a risk of being hit by cars usually, so the "zapping wires flailing everywhere" nightmare is not likely with them. With the high power-density Lithium ion batteries, there is often a risk of fire or explosion when they are damaged in the right way. With enough cars on the road endangering each other by being piloted by dumbasses texting or putting on makeup, the risk skyrockets...

80-mile range? Keep trying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153787)

The summary mentions 3 of the 4 major disadvantages of batteries for EVs. If EVs are to become mainstream, the range needs to be addressed. Any mid-sized pickup truck can handle big and heavy batteries, but no serious vehicle (with the exception of the Model S) will sell well with the ridiculous range of today's batteries.

Re:80-mile range? Keep trying... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45153905)

The intersection between people who want to drive pickup trucks and people want to who drive electric cars is close to zero.

Re:80-mile range? Keep trying... (1)

ihistand (170799) | about a year ago | (#45154073)

The intersection between people who want to drive pickup trucks and people want to who drive electric cars is close to zero.

I disagree with that totally. I have an F150 in the driveway, sitting next to a nearly worn out mid-size sedan which makes a lot of sense to me to replace with an EV. I think there are lots of households just like mine which a pickup and an EV would be a great combination, the best of both worlds.

Re:80-mile range? Keep trying... (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#45154089)

The intersection between people who want to drive pickup trucks and people want to who drive electric cars is close to zero.

This is true - the weight of the battery packs would severely diminish the tow/hauling capacity of the vehicle, and thus would pretty much defeat the purpose of owning a truck to begin with.

Re:80-mile range? Keep trying... (3, Informative)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45154151)

Which is retarded, because of all people, those buying pickup trucks (for actual utility use) should be clamoring over each other for electric versions. If you buy a truck (for reasons other than vanity), you do so to haul things, and if you're hauling things, you want low end torque. Electric motors handily outperform gasoline and diesel engines for low end torque. That's nearly all locomotives have been that way for decades, and modern heavy duty trucks use them rather than turbines.

Re:80-mile range? Keep trying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154331)

The intersection between people who want to drive pickup trucks and people want to who drive electric cars is close to zero.
 
Care to cite or is this some kind of knee-jerk stereotyping going on here?
 
You sound like the asshats who think there is a paradox between me being a gun owner and a vegetarian. I just love gimps like you.

Energy storage = Kaboom? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153789)

As Tesla discovered http://slashdot.org/story/13/10/04/2317232/owner-of-battery-fire-tesla-vehicle-car-performed-very-well-will-buy-again , batteries store lots of energy that can be released in an accident. Where does the energy go when one of these carbon-fibre body panels gets damaged? Are the passengers surrounded by these body panels?

Additionally, how well do carbon fibres burn? Like a torch, or like a bomb?

And finally, having big chunky batteries on the bottom of the car improve stability drastically. Are these panels throwing that advantage away?

(How appropriate, my captcha: Phoenix)

Re:Energy storage = Kaboom? (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154011)

To my understanding, it burns about as well as, and under similar conditions to that of a diamond.

Re:Energy storage = Kaboom? (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about a year ago | (#45154021)

I have a partial answer. No – you are comparing apples to oranges.

The Tesla – and all other electric vehicles – uses chemical batteries. When chemical are bashed about they can burn.

This technology uses ultra-capacitors. So jostling them about won’t cause a chemical reaction. Not sure what will happen – just that it’s not going to be a chemical reaction.

Re:Energy storage = Kaboom? (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45154295)

batteries store lots of energy that can be released in an accident.

As far as I can tell, these don't actually qualify as batteries, as there is no chemical reaction. They're capacitors. Of course, capacitors shorting out are not the greatest thing either. Arc flashes are not a fun thing to experience.

Additionally, how well do carbon fibres burn? Like a torch, or like a bomb?

Neither, really. Carbon fiber really doesn't burn. They use the stuff as thermal shielding on the leading edges of the Space Shuttle, and on high end ceramic brakes. Far too often do people conflate "carbon fiber" with "carbon fiber reinforced plastic". Carbon fiber is nothing but a fabric, and like any other fabric, it can't hold a shape. Unless you're just using it for rope or netting, you need some form of sheer matrix to give it stability, and thermoset plastics are simply convenient for that purpose. So obviously a plastic isn't going to hold up well to temperature, but metals and ceramics will, and there is no indication what these panels are to be made out of, other than a nebulous "carbon fiber".

Danger Will Robinson (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153797)

Death Trap at 12 o'clock!

Two questions (1)

reboot246 (623534) | about a year ago | (#45153807)

How long do they last before having to be replaced?
How much does it cost to replace them?

Re:Two questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153933)

Given this is a one-off prototype (at this point)?

1) A few days so far -- and still counting.
2) Whatever it costs to build new ones from scratch.

Re:Two questions (2)

Herve5 (879674) | about a year ago | (#45154273)

Here in France *all* electric cars come with a contract for batteries replacement. Otherwise it'd be catastrophically costly. And boy will you replace them. Having the whole car structure to replace instead of changing batteries to me is a kind of industrial suicide, unless you decide to throw your car away every two years...

Re:Two questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154347)

How long do they last before having to be replaced?
How much does it cost to replace them?

I actually see an advantage here. Electrical engines last longer than traditional car engines so the most expensive part that an EV's lifespan depends on are the batteries. From a purely technical POV you can thus give an EV a much longer life than a traditional car by replacing the batteries after maybe ten years. However, few people would do that since even if the car were to run another ten years very reliably, it would start to look old. But this could make it possible to include a visual face-lift in the battery replacement cost. In the future we might thus see cars with lifespans that match aircraft.

80 miles ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45153895)

Oh my god ! I can't stand to get such a car, a whooping 80 miles range after three years of hard work ! That's so exciting ! Electric -err coal/shale gas/nuclear- cars are the future !

By the way, when these marvelous batteries won't charge anymore are we supposed to trash the car ?

Re:80 miles ? (1)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45154311)

They look more like capacitors than batteries. They should be good for millions of cycles.

Two major problems (3, Insightful)

multimediavt (965608) | about a year ago | (#45153907)

1. If you're in a crash or just dent a body panel with this crap in it how much is that going to cost?

2. What happens when you need to replace the batteries because they don't hold a charge? You replace all the body panels?

I totally understand the "problems" with batteries in EVs. As the summary states "they're big, heavy, and expensive", but they also need to be serviceable, easily swapped or replaced, and then made smaller, lighter, cheaper over time. The barriers to EVs are gas/petrol stations. There's a lot of them! Sure, some have chargers now, but what EVs need are battery swap stations. Of course, this would also require a standard for battery placement, shape and technology to work, but the battery swapping (like propane tanks a la Blue Rhino) I feel is the best solution for competing with internal combustion based cars and the multitude of fueling stations available. Range issues all but disappear if I can pull over just about anywhere and swap out the battery for a fully charged new one in two minutes or less. [teslamotors.com] Integrating batteries into other parts of the car seems dumb to me. Sure, something that makes electricity to help charge the battery pack would be nice, but batteries in body panels for a vehicle that runs on them? Don't see that as a good idea. Standardization of a battery pack and mass deployment of swap stations would be the big win for EVs. Going to be a while yet. Lots could happen.

Re:Two major problems (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154101)

1. That's what insurance is for.

2. Carbon fibre batteries don't deteriorate in capacity like lithium batteries do.

Re:Two major problems (1)

DarkOx (621550) | about a year ago | (#45154275)

You do understand how insurance works don't you?

They need to take in premiums, more than what they pay out in claims and desired profit, less whatever they expect to make investing in other financial instruments before they have to payout.

When they underwrite collision and comp on the vehicle you will simple pay more because they will be aware of the unusually high cost associated with repairing your vehicle and being more likely to need to total it.

If enough cars start using this technology liability will go up and everyone's cost of driving will be higher as well.

Re:Two major problems (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154401)

When they underwrite collision and comp on the vehicle you will simple pay more

Only if I was at fault in the collision.

Re:Two major problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154661)

HAHAHAHA!!!

Seriously? Do you know how many people are driving around without insurance? Of the people I know who have been in an accident in the last 5 years (3), in all of the the other party did not have insurance. The other two, the party-at-fault declared the vehicle "totaled" and did not provide enough money to replace it.

Re:Two major problems (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154677)

It doesn't matter if the other person is uninsured or not... if I am not at fault in a collision, I do not pay any deductible, and my premiums are not adjusted because of it.

Re:Two major problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154721)

No, your premiums ARE adjusted because of it, because you have to use your uninsured motorist coverage to cover it, unless you are saying you are just going to pay the damage out of pocket. In which case, the cost to repair it is just as important. This is part of why some cars cost more to insure then others.

Re:Two major problems (1)

mark-t (151149) | about a year ago | (#45154889)

No, my premiums are not adjusted because of accidents that are not my fault. I've been in an accident with an uninsured motorist before, and my insurance premiums were not affected at all. Although I don't discount the possibility that they might get adjusted to same the extent that everyone's premiums may get adjusted at the time of renewal just because of an accident that one person had, but I've never actually seen premiums go up on the same car... they usually go down, in fact, as the value of my vehicle depreciates over time, only going back up when I buy a newer car.

Re:Two major problems (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#45154355)

If you're in a crash or just dent a body panel with this crap in it how much is that going to cost

Increasingly, I think we are going to find body panels that are made of carbon fiber. While these may well end up being both lighter and more damage-resistant than their steel and aluminum predecessors, they won't be easy to repair. Carbon fiber doesn't dent when it get hit - it fractures. Therefore, you can't just have the guy in the body shop pound out a few dents, grind it down, and put on a new coat of paint.

Solution looking for a problem (3, Interesting)

div_2n (525075) | about a year ago | (#45153937)

Having the batteries centralized like in the Tesla is a GOOD thing. They keep the center of gravity low on the car making it almost impossible to roll (seriously, the NHTSA had to specially design a scenario to get it to roll) and they make it possible to swap batteries for a quick charge which is going to be necessary unless the capacity of batteries can be increased by a factor of 10 with charge speeds doubled or tripled.

This is a step backwards in many ways not to mention the least of which is to necessarily increase the cost of mild accidents to replace the battery integrated pieces.

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45154269)

Yes, because sedans roll over all the time~

With the Volvo solution you have the same center of gravity a current volvos
They are lighter - more distance
They charge quickly - I can't find how much more quickly, but they aren't chemical so I expect it to be much quicker.

As a bonus. Hitting a piece of metal on the road won't lead to the car bursting in flames.

a better article:
http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/newssummary/news_5-2-2010-10-26-39 [imperial.ac.uk]

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

Macman408 (1308925) | about a year ago | (#45154405)

...because nothing says "low cost" like "Hey, let's take the most expensive part of an EV, and embed it in a couple hundred square feet of specialized carbon fiber!"

Re:Solution looking for a problem (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45154679)

Agreed. And what about cost reduction through standardization? How can it be cost effective to have to design and manufacture different batteries for every car model on the market? How could oddly shaped components be manufactured cheaper than a design where shape is designed to minimize manufacturing cost. And what is the cost of every car factory becoming a battery factory as well rather than having centralized manufacturing? Inquiring minds want to know.

Nobody's serious? (1)

cellocgw (617879) | about a year ago | (#45153945)

Fine, I'll join the dumb comments parade.

"The whole car body is batteries."
"Shocking!"

Need to charge your cellphone? Tie the USB ground lead to a manhole cover, tie the other lead to a nail and pound it into the quarterpanel of the nearest Volvo (oops, wrong voltage :-) )

Re:Nobody's serious? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154567)

Won't work - the tyres are insulating, so there's no circuit.

exchangeable battery packs (1)

ihistand (170799) | about a year ago | (#45153955)

Seems to me the #1 problem with EV batteries is the time it takes to charge them. We need to get to the point that it is possible to re-fuel/recharge an EV in 5 minutes or less, like it takes to fill up at a gas station.

How about spending time and money researching something like a exchangeable battery pack, something standard sized which you could pull in to an EV station, drop out your used battery and exchange for a set of fully charged ones?

That would solve so many problems. I know Tesla is working on something like this, but they don't go far enough to make it usable in any car, like gas stations are today.

Re:exchangeable battery packs (2)

wagnerrp (1305589) | about a year ago | (#45154369)

These would have no trouble charging in that short amount of time. The more difficult issue would be developing a connector that could handle that kind of current, and do it safely while being handled by an ignorant public.

Re:exchangeable battery packs (0)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45154459)

Exchangeable batteries can't be doe is gas station today either. I suspect it would cost a quarter of a million dollar to convert one.

They are using supercapasitors. Depending on the tech, it can charge anywhere form 3 times faster to 100 times faster then lithium.

For example, A laptop using super capacitors could charge in a few seconds and last a month.

There is good reason to believe this invention will change how everything is powered. You could make a cell phone where the case is the battery. In examples they tlak about this leading to a credit card thin cell phones, but would rather the battery area was replace with a device that adds charge when the unit moves around.

not good (1)

JustNiz (692889) | about a year ago | (#45153989)

>>> But what if you could shift EV batteries away from being big blocks under the car and engineer them into the car itself?

You actually want all the weight to be in the middle of the car and low down. If you raised the car's centre of gravity or made it off-centre (by redistributing the weight of the batteries) you will make the car handle a lot worse.

Also batteries can be dangerous as they contain a LOT of energy. Physical damage can easily result in fire. They are best protected by being located in the middle of the car. If you made the body panels batteries so they contain all that energy, one small bump or even door ding could be catastrophic.

Actually it might be fun to see those freaks that dont care about denting other peoples parked cars when they open their doors get burnt alive.

Re:not good (1)

geekoid (135745) | about a year ago | (#45154617)

Post like that is why my sig says what it says.

You actually want all the weight to be in the middle of the car and low down.

And we don'e know how to distribute weight? ad weight?
Read the article. This material is strong enough to be used as struts. Think about that.

"Also batteries can be dangerous as they contain a LOT of energy. "
true, but it isn't chemical energy, so no fires.

" one small bump or even door ding could be catastrophic."
um, no. Please read up on the tech.

Look at his eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154005)

The amount of eye rolling and blinking in the video is an obvious BS indicator. Even the guy explaining the idea seems to know it's never going to be used on a large scale.

always wondered (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about a year ago | (#45154187)

Since batteries are electricity driven by chemical reactions, I've always wondered about the impact of cold-weather climates on electric cars - both in the short term immediate-power context, and in the longer-term cycle life of the system. I suspect that the reports of range, power output, etc are all based on relatively favorable situations.

Living in northern MN, there are several weeks if not months per year that I walk out and start my vehicle (parked outdoors) and every piece of it has to be -20C, -35C or colder. I have to imagine that body panel-batteries would be even more vulnerable to exterior temps? (Plus, frankly, there's something cheery about being warmed by the residual heat of a constant chain of explosions when it's pitch dark and -40C. How fast does an all-electric car warm up, and how much does this warmth "cost" in terms of range, etc - for a gas/diesel, it's a freebie.)

Re:always wondered (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#45154453)

Living in northern MN ... it has to be -20C, -35C or colder.

Wait a minute, you claim to live in Minnesota, but you quote temperatures in Celcius? That ain't 'Merican! You must be one o' them commie Canadians! (Either that, or your an engineer like me.)

Re:always wondered (1)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about a year ago | (#45154757)

The chemical reactions that drive battery output tend to work better at higher temperatures. Maybe the newer technologies have reduced this impact, but I'd guess you would want to keep you battery above a certain temperature. IF your were not charging, it could keep itself heated at the expense of some stored energy.

But what about hot climates? How much does running the Air Conditioning impact an electric vehicle's range? I would guess that the impact is quite large.

Key scratches (4, Funny)

thisisauniqueid (825395) | about a year ago | (#45154217)

Finally, a good way to deal with people key-scratching your car.

Electrocute or fry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154219)

The thing that frightens me most about this - and any electric vehicle come to that - is finding myself sitting inches from a high voltage and very high current power supply that, if shorted, would release all that energy in one blinding flash! And surely, building it into the body panels would increase the risk of a short through even minor accident damage.

I seem to recall Howard Hughes working on a steam powered car. Everybody panel had to be turned into a radiator, with the result that even a minor ding would scald everyone to death!

At least in an i/c powered car, you are only carrying half the fuel required to move it (the rest comes from the air). In an electric car you are carrying ALL of it - and in close proximity! Even if it doesn't go up in a blinding blue flash, the chances of electrocuting either the passengers or would-be rescuers in an accident is frightening!

Re:Electrocute or fry? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45154683)

No, hang on. Electric vehicle batteries are typically very high current but *low* voltage. Not enough voltage, in fact, to overcome the natural resistance of the human body. With a good conductive path, the high current can cause bad things to happen (like extreme heat, fire, smoke) but you are in no danger of getting shocked to death.

This is one of the things TV/movies often get wrong and it's crept into our tribal knowledge -- that the type of batteries you find in cars can shock you to death. It's not true, for very basic, ohm's law type reasons.

It *is* true that rescue workers approach hybrids cautiously. This is partly because of the fire danger (*not* electrocution danger) but also because the car's motive force could still be "live", even though the engine is not running. It's hard for rescue workers to tell if a hybrid is truly "off" as they attempt to rescue the passengers.

Thinking outside the box (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45154265)

Whether this becomes an actual product or not. They will test the hell out of it and any faults in the design will come out. But they will learn a lot in the process.
It will take engineering like this to create an electric vehicle that can truly replace the gasoline powered one. And whether it is actually used in production cars isn't nearly a relevant as "were can this technology be really useful?". I'm thinking of several ways this would work for a small electric fishing boat for example.

sure, and more eco tooo (1)

hurfy (735314) | about a year ago | (#45154287)

I suppose they use less nasty stuff than current batteries.

Of course we recycle current batteries pretty well, oh, and metal body panels. I am sure it can't be TOOO hard to recycle nano-battery carbon fiber panels can it? Is it even possible in theory? What happens if you throw these in a dump with water, random metal things, and pressure?

I see the CG is a big point. I love the local EV that is 3 ft wide and looks like it would tip if you lean on it but has a 1000 lb battery pack in bottom and handles great. Too bad it is/was $40k+ for half a car.

Sounds familiar (1)

necro81 (917438) | about a year ago | (#45154393)

These guys at Imperial College London have been working on this for a while now. Previous coverage on /. Integrating Capacitors Into Car Frames [slashdot.org]

Re:Sounds familiar (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45154519)

Agreed, with the understanding that capacitors and batteries are different things with different manufacturing and operational characteristics. But sure, there's probably some parallels.

so when teaching my teenager drive. (1)

nimbius (983462) | about a year ago | (#45154485)

you kids have it easy. back in my day we used to have exploding bags of hot gas that fired out of the door panels to protect you. and they STILL spilled your mocha latte everywhere! now you kids with your new fangled battery cars just get a warm splash of lithium.

great idea (1)

roc97007 (608802) | about a year ago | (#45154495)

That's not a bad idea at all. Two questions, though: (1) How does this affect accidents, specifically willingness of emergency crews to pry open a crunched car body to extract you, and (2), how does this affect the cost and/or practicality of replacing the batteries when they inevitably begin to wear out?

Eco-friendly? (1)

luiscolorado (2763395) | about a year ago | (#45154513)

Exactly... how's this supposed to be more eco-friendly?

BRILLIANT! (1)

arfonrg (81735) | about a year ago | (#45154587)

That's as brilliant as storing gasoline in pockets in body panels of the car. One fender bender could cause huge problems.

morons

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