Thursday, May 19, 2022

‘Power Suits’ for electric vehicles promise 25% range boost

The current electric vehicle (EVs) face many challenges like limited charge capacity, low miles per charge, and long charging time. To solve these problems, researchers at the University of Central Florida have advanced NASA technologies to develop a power suit for an electric car that helps boost the vehicle’s power capacity.

The suit is made of layered carbon composite material that works as an energy-storing supercapacitor-battery hybrid device due to its unique design at the nanoscale level. This composite is as strong as or even stronger than steel lighter than aluminum, which can reduce the weight of your car and increase the miles per charge.

To construct the material, the researchers created positively and negatively charged carbon fiber layers and stacked them together in an alternating pattern, creating a strong-energy-storing composite. Nanoscale graphene sheets were sandwiched between the layers to boost their energy storage ability, with the sheets attached to carbon fiber electrodes on which different metal oxides are deposited to obtain high-energy-density electrodes. This provides the supercapacitor-battery hybrid with its unprecedented energy storage ability and charging life cycle.

Due to its unique design, the material has significant impact and bending strength, essential for withstanding an auto collision, as well as significant tensile strength. Further, the materials are also nontoxic and nonflammable, which is very important for passenger safety in case of an accident, and the researchers say the charge-discharge cycle life is 10 times that of a typical electric car battery.

When used as a car body shell to supplement the battery, the supercapacitor-based energy-storing device could increase an electric car’s range by 25%, meaning 200 miles (321 km) per charge vehicle could go an extra 50 miles (80 km) and reduce its overall weight. As a supercapacitor, it also would boost an electric car’s power, giving it the extra push it needs to go from zero to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 3 seconds.

“Now in electric cars, the battery is 30% to 40% of the weight,” says the study co-author Kowsik Sambath Kumar. “With this energy storing composite, we can get additional mileage without increasing the battery weight; further, it reduces the vehicle weight while maintaining high tensile, bending, and impact strength. Whenever you decrease that weight, you can increase the range, so this has huge applications in electric cars and aviation.”

The technology could have applications in a range of technologies that require lightweight sources of power, from electric vehicles to spacecraft, airplanes, drones, portable devices, and wearable tech. Also, the material could be employed as frames for cube satellites, structures on off-world habitats, or even as part of futuristic eyewear, such as mixed and virtual reality headsets.

“Making a cubic satellite out of this composite will make the satellite light in weight and will help to eliminate the heavy battery pack. This could save thousands of dollars per launch. Further, free volume gained by the removal of big batteries could help pack in more sensors and testing equipment, increasing the functionality of satellite,” said Deepak Pandey, the study‘s lead author and a doctoral student in Thomas’ lab. “Supercapacitor-battery hybrid behavior is ideal for CubeSats since it can charge in minutes when a satellite orbits over the solar-lit side of the Earth.”

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