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What’s next: Electric cars powered by energy stored in body panels

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Jaguar Mark XXI self powering carA hybrid is any vehicle which runs by utilizing two or more technologies that provide power to the engine. Hybrids can be diesel-electric such as trains; nuclear-electric such as submarines; and gas-electric such as electric cars. Many big players in the field of manufacturing cars are commissioning projects on developing efficient electric cars pairing technologies that are readily available, and are light on pocket besides being user friendly. Electric cars which are both eco friendly and chic are thus a fast catching trend. Cosmopolitan European cities like London encourage electric cars by adopting policies that support eco aware consumers to invest in such cars. Facilities such as zero excise duty, no parking fee and increased charging stations at multiple locations further add to “customer delight”. Besides, studies reveal the need of switching over to better power sources to run hybrids since hydrogen being extremely combustible has in past caused many fatalities. Thus electric cars have seen an upspring from a mere 90 numbers in 2003 to 1600 in 2008.

A striking cost effective innovation, yet in its early developmental stage, is the concept of “self-powering cars”.

1. Batteries shaped into body panels:

Batteries shaped into body panels

A futuristic car that is powered by its own body panel, a dream of yester years is soon emerging from the recesses of human imagination into the realms reality. A joint venture between the car manufacturer Volvo, Imperial College of London and seven other European institutes, this concept helps in phasing out the heavy batteries that add enormous weight to hybrid and electric vehicles.

The car that will receive expertise from Volvo and an investment of 3.5 million Euro and is being touted as one of the most ambitious projects of the current time.

2. Car Bodies Could Store Energy by London’s Imperial College:

Volvo Self Powering Car

The idea behind the innovation lies in using a composite material, which can be fitted on the car’s body, that stores energy and powers the car. Developers from Imperial college are working on an amalgamation of carbon fibers and resin polymer which is highly malleable and strong. Further the work is in progress on growing carbon nanotubes on the surface of the carbon fibers which will increase the total surface area and thus help in storing more energy together with providing additional mechanical strength to the material. This particular composite is then easily moulded and fitted into the car’s body panel replacing steel, thereby effectively reducing the weight of the car by about 15%. Scientist are working on the modalities of developing this material on an industrial scale. Once the material is readily available other factors such as user friendliness in terms of ease of use and the cost need addressing.

The electric car developed thus will have panels fitted on doors, floor, ceiling and bonnet. The material would be recharged by two methods, one by plugging it to the electric mains during night and second, by the energy generated by the tires on braking. This energy from these two sources is stored in the body panels and utilized by the car’s electric motor to power the car. The body of the car now becomes the battery to power the car and thus the heavy batteries, that are conventionally used in electric cars can entirely become redundant. Thus, not only would these car be energy efficient using green technology that is lighter on environment but also lighter on roads due to reduced body weight by elimination of steel panels used to make the body of the car.

3. Jaguar Mark XXI:

Jaguar Mark XXI self powering car

Another coveted car bound to make the owner’s heart to skip a beat is the aerodynamically sculptured chic Jaguar Mark XXI. This car being autonomous does not require a driver to run the vehicle. A technological marvel the zero emission car has “phtovoltaic panels” fitted all over the body. The photovoltaics direct themselves towards the sun and absorb solar energy which is subsequently stored in the vehicle’s onboard battery pack when the car is not working. This solar energy then powers the electric motor in the car to run the vehicle when its cloudy or in the absence of the sun.

These innovations once out in the market, would be a big boost for electric and hybrid car segment when clubbed with lithium ion batteries as an alternate source of power. These charged body panels would not only power the vehicle but technologies like the GPS and other devices installed inside the car. An eco friendly alternative, once functional, will also lead to weeding out of gasses as fuels which are exhaustible.

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