Built-In Batteries Reduce Weight

When we covered the Lola-Drayson electric race car a few months ago, I focused on the recycled and flax-based composites used in the chassis. One element of the design I didn’t get into at the time was the innovative use of “structural batteries” incorporated into the vehicle.

This aerial drone incorporates BAE's structural battery technology. Image: BAE Systems

Supplied by BAE Systems, these new batteries merge nickel-based battery chemistries with a carbon fiber composite. The batteries can be formed into any shape, and actually used as part of the structure of an item, saving space and reducing weight. In the Lola-Drayson vehicle, the battery forms part of the rear wing of the vehicle, and powers the onboard electronics (so far, the batteries aren’t strong enough to replace their lithium counterparts, which power the motors).

BAE has also used the technology to build a torch and a small, unmanned aerial vehicle. The company originally began developing the batteries in order to lighten the load for soldiers that have to carry electronic equipment.

In an interview with the BBC, BAE’s Stewart Penney commented on the utility of the technology: “The beauty of what we’ve got is that, when it’s fully developed, a company will be able to go out and buy what is a standard carbon-composite material, lay out the shape, put it through the curing process and have a structural battery,” he said.

Up next: a lithium-based version of the solution that can provide more juice, as well as a look at new materials that could be used, including fabrics.

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