back to article Volvo: Need a new car battery? Replace the doors and roof

Volvo reckons it has a better place to locate an e-car’s power storage: in the vehicle’s body panels. The technique throws out traditional lithium-based batteries in favour of a carbon fibre and polymer resin sandwich. What Volvo, boffins from Imperial College and researchers from seven battery and materials companies together …


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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    That slight "ding" in the door

    > “a very advanced nanomaterial” is embedded in the resin, which is sealed in between two layers of carbon fibre to form a “super capacitor”.

    ... now turns into a major cost. I don't think the local "dent removers" will be able to deal with this one.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: That slight "ding" in the door."Ummmmmmm. It'll cost you a bit, gov."

      Title says it all.

      1. Ted Treen

        Re: That slight "ding" in the door."Ummmmmmm. It'll cost you a bit, gov."

        ...then don't let the missus drive it...

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: That slight "ding" in the door

      I'll bet their idea of "cost effective" hasn't taken into account the effect on insurance premiums, when every carpark ding becomes a major body and electrical repair job.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Why not go the whole hog

      Make the damn thing out of gold.

      The rest of us normal folk will stick to our bargain bangers and barrels of oil.

    4. David Kelly 2

      Re: That slight "ding" in the door

      I'm not so worried about the cost to repair the ding in the door so much as I'm worried about the cost of replacing the vehicle after a ding in the door shorts and starts a fire.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That slight "ding" in the door

      ... now turns into a major cost. I don't think the local "dent removers" will be able to deal with this one.

      OTOH, this could be the start of a new self-healing material. All the energy for welding is already there...

    6. Mips

      Re: That slight "ding" in the door

      And if the "ding" ruptures the cell the word would be BANG.

      At lest is was the last time I got an electrical short.

  2. alain williams Silver badge

    Bang the car, short the battery

    It looks as if a tiny prang would bend it, short the battery and in no time at all the car will not move.


    1. tojb

      Re: Bang the car, short the battery

      Easy: break the battery up into cells which are insulated from each other. Damage-limitation ensues.

      1. Dave 62

        Re: Bang the car, short the battery

        I'd be worried that one damaged cell could overheat and then it cascades and CFRP is known to burn rather easily, as are most Ps I suppose. It could be that the important bits are (and they surely are) located under a nice protective layer. How thick and strong this is, who knows? But if the actual electrical cell was the surface layer that'd be.. well surely you'd then have charged body panels.. now I know you can pick your average car battery up by the terminals and not feel a thing but if you drop a spanner across them you get a bang. Could there may be safety implications, particularly at petrol stations? Or am I failing at electricity?

        Intrigued as to what this wonder material is, if it somehow makes batteries which are lighter than the alternatives, i.e. better energy density, all they need to do is locate it in a sensible place.

        1. Dave 62

          Re: Bang the car, short the battery

          also wtf is a rally bar? do you mean a strut brace?

          not sure how a stiff bonnet helps here though, unless it attaches rigidly both ends (a typical bonnet catch won't work here) plus stiff bonnets have crash safety implications maybe? I think they have to deform x amount for pedestrian safety, or at least there has to be a certain clearance to any properly hard bits.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bang the car, short the battery

          "I'd be worried that one damaged cell could overheat and then it cascades and CFRP is known to burn rather easily,..."

          To judge by what I see on the roads, most existing cars burn rather well, and require only modest provocation to do so. However, we have generally managed to an adequate standard the risks associated with the use of petrol, so I'd suggest that the fire risks of super capacitor panels would be easily managed. The use of lithium batteries looks to be much more troubling, both from the likelihood of fire starting, and from its intensity and difficulty of extinguishing it.

          Also worth bearing in mind that composite aircraft have lightening resistant CF panels, so several aspects of the problem have probably already been solved.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bang the car, short the battery

            This is an interesting discussion for me. From when I left school in 77 until around 1990 I was working in Labs for a large aeroengine maker and spent a lot of this time in the non-metalic materials lab. At this time we were looking at the use of composites for structures like cowlings and cold stream thrust reversers on big turbofan engines. One of the issues was dealing with lightning strikes. An aircraft will get struck by lightning quite often in it's life and the way to deal with this is to let the electrical bolt conduct across the skin of the aircraft and off down to earth. This effectively allows the lightning to pass around the aircraft and not effect the inside components (or occupants!) of the aircraft. Obviously this was not going to happen with "plastic" planels on big chunks of the aircraft...

            To deal with this we looked at putting conductive pathways into the composite parts, Ally foil, conductive paint, metal mesh - nothing actually structural but something to give a conductive pathway through the composite. We also looked at the potential for the carbon fibre to conduct the electricity sufficiently on it's own - punched some nice holes in carbon panels doing this one!

            As is usually the case in these things a combination of methods were adopted to ensure "belt and braces" protection.

            A more worrying problem was what happened with impacts on the components and how did we fix these. By impact I don't mean a crash but just the possibility of a panel being hit by a tool or some surface vehicle during maintenance, probably more pertinant to this discusson of car parts really. One of the things we found was that even a small impact could cause critical damage that may not even be visible, delamination of the carbon skin and consequent loss of structural strength. We did much work on this to determine the extent of such delamination with relation to the type of impact and how to fix it. I remember a day cutting out a section of a cowl door that we had dropped a hammer on to for a test to see how extensive the delamination was ( I had to pot sections of it and polish them so we could see the delam under a microscope, I took the photos as well). If you think this was worrying thing about what BAC (BAe) were dealing with. They were developing carbon wings for the new ( at the time ) Harrier GR5 and they were shooting bullets at their panels! (and making quite a mess).

            These things were all resolved in time so the knowledge does exist and given that Volvo has had conections to the aerospace industry I'm sure they are aware of these.

            AC because some people may still not like these things to be discussed outside the factory (though it shouldn't be hard to figure me out if any of them were reading this).

        3. The Indomitable Gall

          Re: Bang the car, short the battery

          @Dave 62

          "Intrigued as to what this wonder material is, if it somehow makes batteries which are lighter than the alternatives, i.e. better energy density, all they need to do is locate it in a sensible place."

          It's not really a wonder material at all -- it's just a slightly better implementation of known technology.

          Capacitors have always been better than batteries in terms of charging time, storage efficiency and even energy density, but the big problem is that while chemical cells rely storage capacity is determined by volume, capacitors function on the surface area of two conductive plates facing each other. 3D volumes are optimised by approximating cubes, which gives nice manageable units that fit into cars. But a high-capacity capacitor is easiest to make in a big long slice, which isn't too handy under the bonnet. The bodywork is already made of big long slices, so it fits in efficiently. Just a shame about the potential for damage in any sort of collision.

          Others are researching using crystals to "grow" the plates into interlocking 3D structures, increasing the surface area with a 3D space rather than a 2D plane. That would revolutionise not only electric vehicle technology, but also UPS systems on all sorts of scales. It would even shrink a lot of electricity substations, as capacitors are used to smoothe out fluctuations in the supply to prevent electrical damage in both the substation and the home.

          1. Wize

            Re: Bang the car, short the battery

            What about roof removal during an accident?

            It can be tricky enough for the emergency services, when trying to cut through door pillars, to avoid setting off air bags and getting a flash from cutting cables that power sunroofs without having to cut through the the connections for the car's main power.

          2. WatAWorld

            Re: Bang the car, short the battery

            Don't they still make electrolytic capacitors by taking one long sheet of conductive foil, coating it with electrolyte, put another sheet of conductive foil on top of it, adding an insulator coating, and then rolling the whole thing up?

            They fit just as well under the hood as they do on computers motherboards and inside audio amps.

            I do like the idea of a 3-D structure for the plates. I can see how that would help.

      2. Richard Scratcher

        Re: Damage-limitation ensues.

        Quite so and have the on-board computer manage the flow of electricity.

        "Captain, that was a direct hit on our starboard capacitor, we're down to 75%. I've compensated but we canna take another hit like that."

        "Switch all power to front capacitors. Scotty, I need that fuel cell back on line in 5 minutes or we'll be on the hard shoulder."

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bang the car, short the battery

      On the bright side, the next time some little turd tries to key your car they'll get quite a surprise.

      1. smartypants

        Re: Bang the car, short the battery

        "On the bright side, the next time some little turd tries to key your car they'll get quite a surprise."

        Alas, the might of the Human Rights industry will very quickly bring to court attempted manslaughter charges against the owner of the first car which delivery said surprise.

        You see, in our Brave New World, it's up to the victims to ensure that vandals, robbers, attackers and so on are not inadvertently injured while attempting their crimes.

        It really suprises me that we're still allowed to make windows out of glass. Glass shatters into dangerous shards which can easily wound someone who is trying to gain entry into your house.

        1. Lars Silver badge

          Re: Bang the car, short the battery

          "Glass shatters into dangerous shards which can easily wound someone" That was indeed true, but a long time ago. Then there was a guy who dropped a bottle containing dried glue and now things are different.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Bang the car, short the battery

            They'r eonly different on the front window unless you have a seriously expensive motor.

            Try a sharpened centrepunch on a side window to see what I mean.

      2. Suricou Raven

        Re: Bang the car, short the battery

        "On the bright side, the next time some little turd tries to key your car they'll get quite a surprise."

        Can we call it 'Magna Volt?'

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. robin48gx

      Re: Bang the car, short the battery

      Yeah, you have a crash and there gonna be a fucking great FLASH!

      Maybe even cause a fire

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Maybe even cause a fire

        I was thinking along the same lines: Cool idea, but what about accident implications? Could this be the new Ford Pinto?

        As to the fire, those are usually visible. What if the accident shorts the capacitor so the whole car is now charged? That's not exactly visible.

        1. WatAWorld

          Re: Maybe even cause a fire

          Not just the capacitor catching fire, but perhaps the spark igniting gasoline or propane from the other vehicle.

    4. NightFox

      Re: Bang the car, short the battery

      At least this doesn't sound as dangerous as a proposal I once saw to transport us around using a system relying on highly volatile fuel, explosions, HT voltages and water.

  3. frank ly Silver badge

    Facts and figures?

    What is the energy storage density per kilogram and per litre compared to LIon batteries and what is the likely cost comparison? I can't imagine that this would be cheaper than making an equivalent increase in the volume of an existing battery design.

    Also, if it's that good, why not replace the entire battery with a lump made form this 'super capacitor' material? I wonder what it's stored energy loss rate is.......... etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Facts and figures?

      "Also, if it's that good, why not replace the entire battery with a lump made form this 'super capacitor' material? ."

      Because if you can make panels you already need for structural and aerodynamic reasons into power storage, then you don't need a separate battery, reducing the overall component count, assembly complexity, and total weight. You may also have other disadvantages of assembling as a single "battery", such as heat losses in charging and discharge that aren't a problem with a large surface area. Indeed, if your energy is more widely distributed, then any point failures would not be as exciting as a point failure on a single energy storage brick.

      If you think about how (for all the challenges) the 787 is revolutionary for aviation in terms of construction and performance, through the use of CF and different approaches to electrical systems, and consider how that might change car making. Does it really make sense to make car bodies out of metal at all, with the all the necessary rolling, bending, punching, welding, corrosion protection? And if you're asking such fundamental questions then you'd question why you have so many different components, which can be eliminted, integrated into other parts, or made differently through smart tech. Could you ultimately 3D print a car body? I'd have though so, and a better, lighter car than we currently make with steel origami. Could you print the car round the drive train, or pre-assembled interior? Maybe. Could the panels combine solar charging with energy storage? Certainly, though it wouldn't help us much here in the UK.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Facts and figures?

        Composites instead of steel would really be great, ultimately it comes down to cost. You can bet your bottom dollar that if a car made with composites rather than steel would be cheaper to make, we'd already be seeing them in mass-production. So it's a fair bit into the future. 3D printing, even more because current state-of-the-art 3D printouts have the structural integrity of a chocolate teapot.

        The general idea here is great though. It's easy to imagine this in an e-car combined with solar panels to keep charge topped up, in-wheel electric motors to free up space in the 'engine' compartment, less Li batteries required giving a lighter car (meaning in turn less power requirement and longer range on the same battery). It would still probably cost a fair bit more than a combustion-engine 'normal' car, but start to get comparable range, and 'sensible' charge times comparable to a 5-minute fill-up at the petrol station.

        As many fellow commentards* point out above, the main problem will be damage vulnerability, but hopefully that will start going away as we shift to auto-drive cars that collide a lot less than their meatbag-driven counterparts.

        *lovingly, of course

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Facts and figures?

          "You can bet your bottom dollar that if a car made with composites rather than steel would be cheaper to make, we'd already be seeing them in mass-production."

          Not the case at all. You've got many bright ideas yet to see the light of day, because (for example) of the need to recover existing investments, because of concerns about market acceptance, over and above those ideas that nobody's thought to try yet.

          To continue the aviation analogies, if sense had anything to do with it, flying wing configurations would be the norm for airline transport, but there's never been much market acceptance by customers of anything radical in aviation (perhaps for obvious reasons)

        2. WatAWorld

          How is carbon fiber at being recycled?

          Metal is easily recycled. How is carbon fiber at being recycled?

          Anyone know?

    2. David Kelly 2

      Re: Facts and figures?

      A big problem with capacitors is the relatively high self-discharge rate.

  4. Richard 81

    I'd like answers to many of the questions that others have posted, but still, Volvo aren't stupid. They won't commercialise if it isn't viable.

    1. Getriebe

      @Richard 81 - agreed - I will trust the nice people of Gothenburg to get this right - they usually do as long as they don't get interfered with by utomstående - and so far the people from Zhejiang have been friendly Uncles. Long may it continue.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Amusing way to crush a car at the end of its life

    Just connect the battery to a high enough voltage and watch the car implode due to positive and negative electrodes getting more highly attracted to each other so all the panel batteries fold in on themselves like an airbed attached to a powerful vacuum pump.

  6. Faye B

    Why not go F1 style

    Seeing as the bonnet and boot are so vunerable to damage why not copy the F1 builders and make the chassis and floor pan out of the stuff instead. The roof is also a good alternative, especially if you add a layer of solar cells to it. The car could be constantly charging itself all day long.

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Why not go F1 style

      "The car could be constantly charging itself all day long."

      Looking out of the window just now, I'm not entirely sure that this would work all that well in the UK.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why not go F1 style

        "Looking out of the window just now, I'm not entirely sure that this would work all that well in the UK."

        Volvo will come up with UK specified cars - add in a wind turbine and a water turbine and Sven's our uncle

      2. theblackhand

        Re: Why not go F1 style

        Maybe a UK model could have a small hydroelectric dam and reservoir on the roof instead?

        It would only need to hold enough water to last between rain showers and you could always keep a 20L container of water in the boot for emergencies.

    2. Eradicate all BB entrants

      Re: Why not go F1 style

      I think its probably because the boot and bonnet would be easier to replace .... and also check for damage. A low speed impact could cause fractures that would not be picked up in even a detailed check. I doubt you would want a chassis issue making itself known at 70mph on the motorway as it tends to shatter more than snap.

      1. Anonymous Blowhard

        Re: Why not go F1 style

        As well as being easier to replace, it will probably be easier to automate the manufacture of separate, flatish, components.

        The big problem with carbon monocoque chassis, like F1, is the F1 price tag because a lot of it has to be done by hand. Putting sheet metal through automated hydraulic press lines and then into robot welding requires virtually no people at all.

  7. Hellcat

    When Volvo announced their Diesel plug-in Hybrid I immediately saw the potential. Driving from and to work on the electric only makes financial sense – even more so if you are able to charge it while at work. When going touring at the weekend you have a 200bhp front wheel drive diesel engine, and can even boost it with an extra 80bhp push through the rear electric wheels.

    I’m not so sure on this one though.

  8. Frankee Llonnygog

    Maybe what's needed is

    Some kind of liquid battery or energy source. It could be stored in a container under the car bodywork. Energy could be extracted by releasing heat and kinetic energy via oxidation. When the energy source is exhausted, the container could be topped up with more liquid from a hose connected to a pump at the charging station.

    I wonder if there's any prior art for this?

    1. Gio Ciampa

      Re: Maybe what's needed is

      It'd never get past Health & Safety... (a point made, if I recall correctly, by May et al a while back...)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maybe what's needed is

      I often wonder what it would have been like to read the comments section on things like the modern car battery, back when they were first put in to the motor vehicle. I'll not mention the lead in batteries aspect as I'm not sure the full effects of lead would have been known. But could you imagine the furore of the idea of going from steam to petroleum :o

    3. G R Goslin

      Re: Maybe what's needed is

      My vehicles already seem to be equipped with such a device. It's called a fuel tankk. Depending on the vehicle, I fill them with petrol or diesel. It's quick, clean and convenient, and I can get the fuel almost everywhere. Dents and dings hardly seem to bother them.

      1. Getriebe

        Re: Maybe what's needed is

        "It's called a fuel tankk. "

        I think a whooosshh picture is called for

        As someone posted on here a few days back, don't tell some past owners of the Pinto that fuel tank can take dings - quite a few turned into fireballs.

        The reason a modern car is so rarely burtsing into flames is because of 'elf & Sfatey mate rules generated in the US and here. Design and position of the fuel tank is what keeps them safe.

        Also petrol was a distant third in early car design - electrics and steam were miles ahead. Now only if we had picked steam - max torque at stall, complete and controlled combustion, almost any fuel .....

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Maybe what's needed is

          Once you decouple fuel from drivetrain, you could easily make a stirling-based hybrid.

          All the work's going into IC engined hybrids because that's where all the work has gone in the past. It wouldn't be particularly hard to make a IC/stirling cogen setup either.

    4. Old Handle

      Re: Maybe what's needed is

      This is an interesting idea, but what would happen to the liquid energy source after it's oxidized? Wouldn't it vaporise and escape as an atmospheric contaminant? It's hard to imagine people would put up with that, especially in a densely populated area.

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Maybe what's needed is

      Completely impractical. Who's going to pay for the huge infrastructure build-out to put up all these "charging stations"? (I'd have called them "filling stations", since you're refilling your container with this hypothetical liquid "energy source".) You'd need, what, at least one in every town, and a goodly number in cities, and scattered about the rural districts too.

      Face it, nothing's going to displace the nearly optimal combination of railroad and horse-drawn carriage.

  9. Thomas Whipp

    I dont like to say I told you so...

    but I thought this was a natural step to take for electric cars:

  10. Eradicate all BB entrants

    I find this will ......

    ..... slightly dampen the fun I have trolling hybrid/electric car users by telling them to look on youtube for laptop battery fires and telling them they have a boot full :D

  11. andreas koch

    Impatience, much?

    A lot of people here seem to think that it won't work. And it probably won't; not in the way it's being looked into right now.

    But then, what ever is? This is an engineering concept, somebodies idea that must have appeared sound enough to qualify a bit of testing. If it would be completely ridiculous, either economically or technically, it wouldn't even have made an article. Furthermore, most concepts don't see the showroom in the way they were first trialled and presented: BMW's GINA will never be for sale, and we will surely be spared the view of a Ford SYNus on the road.

    Concepts are there to try out ideas, and to sift the grain from the chaff. What will be kept from this intriguing approach is to be seen.

    No good going "Are we there yet?" already.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Impatience, much?

      Rubbish. I've seen plenty of films and TV shows, and they clearly demonstrate that all advances in technology involve a lone scientist working in a basement, garret, abandoned warehouse, or the like, who conceives a brilliantly original idea and promptly implements a fully-working prototype. All that's left for Big Innovation to do is slap a logo on it and put it in a box.

  12. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    Flammable doors?

    Having a short after a slight dent in a parking lot is one thing. Having a battery that may be prone to bursting into flames inside the car *doors* seems to be really foolhardy...

  13. Robert Grant

    Just don't get Elop involved in the marketing

    "Burning platform" indeed.

  14. SPiT

    This idea will seriously upset the local Fire and Rescue Services. They already have a major issue around dangerous components in cars (gas struts, air bags and electrical supplies). The vehicle will need to be designed so that it is very clear to a rescue worker with cutting tools exactly where they can safely "disassemble" the vehicle to release trapped and possibly seriously injured occupants. The emphasis here, is that they have to know what is safe and what isn't. It isn't enough for there to be a safe approach, it has to be guaranteed safe (else their senior management cannot ask them to do it) and it has to be clearly communicated to the rescue workers in a way that guarantees they will be aware.

    If you want to store lots of electrical energy (which they do) then this is going to be seriously difficult to make safe.

  15. fortran

    Fire, Scrapes and Corrosion

    There are fire resistant matrices for composites, probably in large part driven by the aircraft industry. Cheap fire resistant matrices, probably not.

    Some reinforcements can handle surface scratches, some can't. Your carbon fibre probably needs a thin surface layer of glass, just to handle incidental scrapes (or sanding in production). The extra layer of glass and matrix helps with the following.

    Carbon fibre is noble to everything. Connections to metallic parts have to be electrically isolated. If panels have holes, the hole is probably oversized and then lined with epoxy to isolate the carbon fibres.

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Fire, Scrapes and Corrosion

      By noble you mean electrically inert.

      So a carbon fiber car would not normally protect occupants from lightening strikers and downed power lines then? I suppose that doesn't happen much, so maybe doesn't matter.

      But a capacitor is two conductive layers separated by a dielectric. These batteries must have some kind of conductive carbon fiber for the carbon fibers to act as the conductive layer. Maybe an additive?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Safety Questions

    To those raising safety questions: This is Volvo. First to introduce many safety features as standard and behind much of the advances in vehicle safety testing procedures, technology and facilities.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Safety Questions

      Volvo, who have also been known for producing mad concept vehicles they won't ever put into production because they _can't_ make them safe enough for mass market.

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. DvorakUser

    @SPiT: One thing that I could see them doing is, instead of the ENTIRE door being made of the capacitor material, just have the lower part be, so that the A- B- and C-pillars are all electrically neutral by default

  19. Marketing Hack Silver badge

    Isn't one of bright ideas around electric cars was to be able to forklift out batteries?

    So you can swap out batteries in 5-10 minutes at a recharge station and then get going again on longer trips? I think that this would pretty much rain on that parade.

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      Re: Isn't one of bright ideas around electric cars was to be able to forklift out batteries?

      One of the ways to do it - but this tech sounds like quick charging is a good option.

      Due to increased "spread" of the battery it won't have the same problems dissipating any "charging heat", and so should be inherently safer than a monolithic battery.

      Of course there is an issue with the aging of cells, but that is a discussion for another day - maybe they'll make doors reasonably easy to change...

    2. Suricou Raven

      Re: Isn't one of bright ideas around electric cars was to be able to forklift out batteries?

      It's a nice idea, but you get the old chicken-and-egg problem: No cars would sell because there are no changing stations, and no reason to build the stations without cars. Unless someone wants to throw a few billion pounds away the economy couldn't get started.

      Also, batteries are not interchangeable. There are issues with wear and abuse. With li-ion cells it's possible for a sneaky hacker to almost double their lifespan by bypassing discharge prevention circuitry, for example - at the expense of placing tremendous wear on the cells, greatly shortening their life. I can easily imagine someone applying this 'extra range' mod to their car, possibly without even realising the damage caused. Until the changing station operators start to wonder why their 10yr-estimated-life batteries are all becoming unuseable after four months. Similar concerns if someone takes their car out hill-climbing or for an off-road rally track, and puts the batteries through some serious mechanical abuse. It isn't affordable to have someone test and inspect the battery after each change.

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: Isn't one of bright ideas around electric cars was to be able to forklift out batteries?

        Actually charging station need only be a 120V 15A and they're all over Canada for plugging in engine block heaters.

        Every home, every outdoor parking lot (except Vancouver and City of Toronto where it is warm enough they don't need them). Probably a population of 30 million is already wired up.

        Unfortunately these areas that already have charging stations are all too cold for an electric vehicle to be viable in for 4 months of the year -- unless this new battery works reasonably well at -30C.

        For rapid charging 240V 30A, the kind of plug we use for electric driers. Wall sockets in North America are normally 120V and that 120V comes from splitting up a 240V three phase supply.

        So charging stations are nothing to build, under $500 to add to your building -- provided the smarts for the charging station are carried in the car itself.

        The bigger problem may be the municipal electrical distribution system that in warm climates may not be able to handle large number of cars being plugging in at 6:00 PM, all drawing 6,000W.

        1. WatAWorld

          Re: Isn't one of bright ideas around electric cars was to be able to forklift out batteries?

          Correction, that 120 V comes from splitting up the 2 phases that are brought into the building from the 3 phases outside in the distribution lines.

          120V from each hot wire to the common, 240 V between the two hot wires.

  20. Steve Martins

    science fiction becomes science fact...

    You know how much of the future tech portrayed on telly (like the tablet devices in star trek, gesture computing in minority report...) become reality... well maybe Hollywood was on to something with cars that explode spectacularly in a collision...

    I look forward to the Crash test videos, popcorn at the ready :-)

  21. Stevie Silver badge


    All this concern about shorts and fires and bolts of lightning coursing through the passengers after an accident is misplaced.

    The real concern should be for how stupidly uncool it will be to drive around in a car in which everyone's hair stands on end and that every time the sun comes out gets pieces of roadside trash sticking to it.

    The only place for a capacitor in a car is across the points to stop the ignition interfering with the radio and the cassette player.

    As for door dings: Trusty old Gunson will rapidly deploy the Door Battery Undigerizer to a Halfords near you as soon as this daft idea comes to market. Simply clamp to the door, apply the special paste to the split in the battery (avoid touching with bare fingers) and work the ratchet handle to remove the ding and restore battery life. All you need to add is one deep-reach socket with a large enough hole to clear the tool's integral screwdriver bit. Good luck sourcing that.

  22. chris lively

    I'm trying to imagine how they would prevent cell service interruption while you are in the vehicle.

    With all that energy coursing around the outside of it you would think it would play havoc on the devices inside.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      I'm trying to imagine how they would prevent cell service interruption while you are in the vehicle.

      Yes, that's another advantage of this proposal.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone ever accidentally discharge a capacitor?

    Under the heading of bloody self evident design failure,....if you have ever "inadvertently discharged" a capacitor in salvaged electronics or TV's, it is unlikely that you would ever want to touch one again or give yourself another chance to bridge those contacts anytime soon.

    Therefore no one but a complete fool would ever make a vehicle that had 100,000 volts (at how many amps?) stored up in a door panel; that could be let off by a simple grocery basket or kids bicycle careening into it. Either the vehicle occupant, the cart/bicycle rider or BOTH would be toasty.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hope the head of Volvo's R&D is reading the comments. Loads of free advice.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Though much of it is marvelously repetitive. Everyone commenting at once, or simply not bothering to read the existing comments first? (Not that I've read all of them, but then I'm not pretending my comments are useful.)

  25. Neoc

    Other problem

    There is another problem here: as far as I can tell from the article, Volvo is also touting these panels as replacements for normal car batteries.

    I live in QLD. The conditions here are such that "normal" car batteries have a tendency to cook if you're not careful. I've had to replace the battery in my car twice in the last 12 years (they were no longer holding a charge). This was done at the roadside easily, quickly and (relatively) cheaply - I don't see this happening with these new panels.

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Other problem

      And where I live batteries seldom make it to 5 years of age, due to cold.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Other problem

      Capacitors are not batteries. That's not to say that these panels won't have issues with service life; but extrapolating from your experience with batteries is rather a stretch.

      Now, had you written "here in QLD, the Spotted Carbon-Devouring Snake typically makes a quick meal of carbon-fibre panels", you'd've had something.

  26. WatAWorld

    Will these batteries function at all in winter in the NE and Mid-west USA?

    Few people will buy a car just for summer. So if a car cannot function in the winter months it is useless.

    A big part of the USA and all of Canada are subject to sub-zero temperatures.

    And batteries typically have extreme problems with sub-zero weather.

    Lead acid batteries can be charged at -20C (-4F) while NiCd, NiMH and Li-ion batteries cannot be normally charged below 0C (32F).

    At –20°C (–4°F) most nickel-, lead- and lithium-based batteries stop functioning. Although NiCd can go down to –40°C (-40°F), the permissible discharge is almost just a trickle.

    In winter, for existing lead acid batteries, this is mitigated using a lead acid battery that tolerates cold better, by the battery being inside the engine compartment, heated by the engine (and in Canada, when the engine is off, heated by the plug-in electric block heater that runs off the mains), or by heat retained by the engine compartment when it is parked in a semi-heated garage.

    The roof, boot/trunk and doors do not get heat from the engine compartment. These proposed large flat batteries have huge surfaces area to radiate any retained garage heat from.

    If the outside temperature is -20C, the roof, doors and hood are going to quickly reach -20C while driving. Same with -40C.

    So who well will these batteries perform in sub-zero weather that we have for months at a time in winter?

    1. WatAWorld

      Re: Will these batteries function at all in winter in the NE and Mid-west USA?

      These cars need to work going to work in the morning, which means the *daily low temperatures* are the important ones since those temperatures occur just before dawn, which in winter is 7 to 8:30 AM.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Will these batteries function at all in winter in the NE and Mid-west USA?

      What "batteries"? The article is about capacitors.

  27. Tom 64

    Crash safety

    The solution to this is simple. If a certain amount of deceleration is detected in the event of an accident, have some explosive bolts forcibly eject your roof, door and bonnet panels.

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