Materials That Turn Car Body Parts Into Batteries

Posted on June 24, 2012. Filed under: automotive, materials science, research & development | Tags: , |

Sharing abstracts from the Polymer Library … “Polymers in Automotive Fuel Efficiency” is the theme for the June 2012 set of abstracts from the Smithers Rapra Polymer Library.

I enjoy browing the short set of abstacts each month, and this month I was especially intrigued by an abstract titled “Surface Charge”.  It describes research into replacing vehicle batteries and other components with structural energy materials, which could yield weight savings of more than 50%.  If it pans out, it “should provide a way for the battery to add to the car’s strength instead of creating extra weight.”  One of the first prototype vehicles is the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV electric racing car demonstrator.

 I don’t ever expect to be driving anything like this (do you?) but if the technology can be brought to commercial production, it could certainly provide a boost to the desirability of electric vehicles.    One more option in the quest for lighter, more efficient batteries.


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Bioelectricity beats biofuels – if you’re driving

Posted on May 8, 2009. Filed under: automotive, environment, research & development | Tags: , , , , |

Premise: The quantity of land available to grow biofuel crops without impacting food prices or greenhouse gas emissions from land conversion is limited. Therefore, bioenergy should maximize land-use efficiency when addressing transportation and climate change goals. Biomass could power either internal combustion or electric vehicles, but the relative land-use efficiency of these two energy pathways is not well quantified.

A paper published yesterday in Science concludes that, from a sustainability point of view, using biomass to produce electricity for electric vehicles would produce 81% more transportation (miles driven) than using the same amount of biomass to produce ethanol for internal combustion engines.  The researchers also conclude that the electricity option has greater potential for reducing CO2 also.  Results are summarized in a poster here.

The researchers reached their conclusions after conducting a life-cycle analysis  of bioelectric and bioethanol technologies.  The analysis took into account not only the energy produced by each technology but also the energy consumed in producing the vehicles and fuels. 

Part of the reason, as reported in today’s ScienceNow summary, is that electric engines are far more efficient than internal combustion engines, and other factors also must be considered.  If only complex problems could have simple answers! –nks

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More on A123 Systems (Batteries)

Posted on April 14, 2009. Filed under: automotive, energy efficiency, manufacturing | Tags: , |

Yesterday’s blog reported on Chrysler’s decision to use A123 Battery Systems for it’s planned electric vehicles and hybrid plug-ins.  Here’s more about A123, courtesy of SME’s April14 Daily Executive Briefing, taken from an April 13 Wall Street Journal article:

 GE Investing Another $15 Million In A123 Systems. The Wall Street Journal (4/13, Johnson) Environmental Capital blog reported, “General Electric is pouring another $15 million into battery maker A123 Systems, the seventh time GE has put money into the MIT offshoot,” and “the $69 million invested by GE and others will let A123 expand factories to ramp up production of auto batteries.” The investment, noted the blog, “has as much to do with the future of electricity as with the future of automation.” The company said that “not all the money will be used to build futuristic cars: ‘The funding will also support A123’s efforts to develop applications for the smart grid, such as utility-scale energy storage.’” The blog pointed out that “finding a cost-effective, reliable way to store the intermittent electricity produced by wind farms and solar panels would make it easier to use a lot more clean energy.  –nks

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Chrysler chooses U.S. based battery supplier

Posted on April 13, 2009. Filed under: automotive, energy efficiency, manufacturing | Tags: , |

A123 battery module

A123 battery module

MIT’s Technology Review reports that Chrysler has chosen A123 Batteries, based in Watertown, MA, to provide batteries for its planned electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. A123 is reportedly building factories in Michigan to build the batteries.  According to the story, this could help promote an advanced battery undustry in the U.S.

The vehicles. too, will be built in the U.S., according to Chrysler.  All good news, in a small way, for U.S. manufacturing, iespecially if Chrysler survives the current economic crisis.

A123 was selected, in part, because it is U.S.-based, and also because the battery modules are supposed to be easily adaptable to various vehicle models.  Another benefit – the technology lends itself to relatively simple battery packs.  Much more detail in the story.  –nks

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The stackable “city car” close to moving out of the lab?

Posted on March 9, 2009. Filed under: automotive, energy, engineering, innovation |

They’re cute, they’re tiny, and they may be about to move out of the Lab.  MIT is reportedly submitting a proposal to build a network of the cars for a city government in Asia.  If accepted these “small electrical pods on wheels” (as the Boston Globe describes them) could be deployed as a pilot project in five years.

The city cars are tiny electric vehicles that can be picked up and dropped off like rental carts at an airport, or like rented bicycles in Paris and other cities.  They are designed to hook into city-wide networks of chargers, and to rely on computers for navigation.  Benefits could include reduced gridlock in downtown areas, reduced need for parking space, and reduced reliance on, for example, conventional gasoline-powered rental cars. 

MIT suggests they be considered as a ”personal and sustainable mobility system and service. A clean, green machine.”  See my Nov. 22, 2007 post on “stackable cars” for more information, or visit MIT’s Smart Cities website. 

A fascinating concept. –nks

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