Innovation That Matters

UCF researchers Kowsik Sambath Kumar, Jayan Thomas, and Deepak Pandey show the lightweight, supercapacitor-battery hybrid composite material they’ve developed. | Photo source UCF

Power suits for electric vehicles could greatly increase range

Mobility & Transport

Researchers have developed a composite material that can be used to supplement battery storage and boost power

Spotted: Researchers at the University of Central Florida have created a charged power ‘suit’ for an electric car that could boost the vehicle’s power capacity. Made from a layered carbon composite material, the suit acts like a hybrid energy-storing supercapacitor-battery. When used as a shell over the car body, the material could store energy to supplement the car’s batteries – increasing its range and decreasing its weight.

To construct the material, the researchers created positively and negatively charged carbon fibre layers. They then stacked these together in an alternating pattern. Nanoscale graphene sheets were sandwiched between the layers to increase their energy storage ability. At the same time, metal oxides deposited on attached electrodes enhance voltage and provide higher energy density.

The design gives the material the strength to withstand a collision, as well as a great deal of tensile strength. The researchers say the charge-discharge cycle life is 10 times that of a typical electric car battery. The researchers envision covering an electric car with the material and using it to supplement battery storage. The suggest that it could increase an electric car’s range by 25 per cent, and boost the power enough for a standard electric vehicle to go from zero to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 3 seconds.

“Our idea is to use the body shells to store energy to supplement the power stored in batteries,” explains eam leader Jayan Thomas, a professor in UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and Department of Materials Science and Engineering. He points out that the composite, “can reduce the weight of your car and increase the miles per charge. It is as strong as or even stronger than steel but much lighter.” He adds that the supercapacitor would get its power through charging, as well as when the car brakes.

Electric vehicles are storming ahead, but increasingly researchers are looking at ways to make this technology truly sustainable. This includes searching for ways to recycle their components and to make the vehicles more energy efficient. Luckily, there is no shortage of innovations in this area. Recent advances include a process that can cost-effectively recycle graphite from used lithium-ion batteries and a battery recycling process that can recover pure metals. 

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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