Burning fossil fuels releases gases that contribute to global climate change, which creates a variety of serious problems for our global civilization. As one part of the solution, we need to find another way to power vehicles like cars and airplanes. Electric batteries are a promising possibility. But, there’s a big problem. They are heavy and bulky and this imposes major limits on the performance of electric vehicles. The battery of a Tesla model S electric car makes up a quarter of its total weight. Battery weight is especially critical for making electric-powered aircraft feasible.
In 2021 a team of Swedish engineers published research reporting an innovative possible solution. The researchers manufactured and tested a battery composed of sturdy materials that can perform a dual role as both a battery and as a major structural part of the vehicle itself. The structural sturdiness of their battery comes from the fact that its negative electrode is made of re-enforced carbon fiber.
Although it stores less energy per unit weight than a conventional lithium-ion battery, it is structurally as sturdy as aluminum. This structural sturdiness allows the battery to take the place of other materials as part of the structure of the vehicle. The battery doesn’t add any extra weight to the vehicle at all beyond the weight needed anyway for the vehicle’s structure. Eliminating the battery’s extra weight, in turn, greatly reduces the amount of electricity needed to power the vehicle.
Critics still worry about the long-term durability of this structure. A new project, funded by the Swedish National Space Agency aims to improve the battery further. The new technology could also make devices like cellphones and laptops lighter.