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Transportation Power United Kingdom

Integrating Capacitors Into Car Frames 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the integrating-is-just-a-fancy-word-for-duct-taping dept.
necro81 writes "It has long been recognized that adding capacitors in parallel with batteries can improve the performance of hybrid and electric vehicles by accepting and supplying spikes of power, which reduces stress on the battery pack, extending range and improving cycle life. The challenge has been figuring out where to put them, when batteries already compete for space. A new research prototype from Imperial College London has integrated them into the body panels and structural frame of the vehicle itself. In their prototype, carbon fiber serves as both the structure for the vehicle and electrode for the energy storage sandwiched within."
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Integrating Capacitors Into Car Frames

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:20AM (#36341810)

    as a side benefit it functions as reactive armor in a collision.

    • On the bright side, a conductive bullet hitting the side will cause a nice discharge and maybe a fire. Or if a piece of metal pierces the capacitor after a collision, and the discharge either ignites gas fumes if the car is a hybrid, or the short heats something and causes a fire. Yes, energy storage in the frame is a really good idea. Also, if capacitors are in a door panel, which of course moves, then the energy-carrying cable leading out of the door will be flexed every time the door moves, until the day

      • I remember experiments in college with exploding-wire phenomena, where we pulsed conductors with capacitors and vaporized wires. This both generates a shock pulse and can do a soft X-ray discharge. Yeah, I want that in my car.

        Why not? It sounds like something that might give you superhero powers...

      • On the bright side, a conductive bullet hitting the side will cause a nice discharge and maybe a fire.

        You mean, if I'm in one of these cars, getting shot at with bullets COULD BE DANGEROUS? Goodness!

        Or if a piece of metal pierces the capacitor after a collision, and the discharge either ignites gas fumes if the car is a hybrid, or the short heats something and causes a fire.

        Again, I don't see how that would be unique to capacitors in the frame. Seems that if you have a collision, and gas is released, -that's- the dangerous part.

        Also, if capacitors are in a door panel, which of course moves, then the energy-carrying cable leading out of the door will be flexed every time the door moves, until the day the cable breaks. Although window motor cables seem to endure without breaking, so maybe it's okay.

        And power locks, and power to the mirrors. So... we agree this is probably not actually an insurmountable problem that engineers would be unable to solve, right?

        I remember experiments in college with exploding-wire phenomena, where we pulsed conductors with capacitors and vaporized wires. This both generates a shock pulse and can do a soft X-ray discharge. Yeah, I want that in my car.

        Ideally the engineers would have taken more classes on the subject and would be able to discer

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Well...
          "Again, I don't see how that would be unique to capacitors in the frame. Seems that if you have a collision, and gas is released, -that's- the dangerous part."
          They are talking about using body panels. So any impact could cause a breach. Ever see a wreck where no body panel has been damaged? Take a look at a gas tank and you will see how small it is and how they put the "frame" around it to protect it. There that should show the difference.
          and now.
          "And power locks, and power to the mirrors. So... we a

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        hah, a typical 9mm or 10mm bullet isn't going to just stop inside the door of any modern car. You'll have bigger concerns such as the holes in you or your passengers.

    • by ygslash (893445)
      Better be careful not to stand in a puddle when you open your car door.
    • caps in my car? not for us auto-philes: we prefer our cars to be dc-coupled.

    • by arivanov (12034)

      No boom today, boom tomorrow, there will always be a boom tomorrow.

      Damn, someone needs to put the things into perspective here...

  • We build excitement! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by whitelabrat (469237) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:28AM (#36341854)

    Does anyone fail to see the problem of having what would likely be several Farads of high voltage stashed away in the body panels? I would expect if fully charged the capacitors if shorted, in a fender bender or whatever, they would leave little trace that they or anything that touches them ever existed. Just a spot of charred metal and the smell of electrolyte.

    And what about the aging of capacitors or capacitor failure? It's certainly exiting when a small capacitor goes POP! Imagine when one of these suckers blow your doors off while you're driving!

    • in a fender bender or whatever, they would leave little trace that they or anything that touches them ever existed

      Could save a fortune in tow trucks.

    • by mangu (126918)

      It's certainly exiting when a small capacitor goes POP! Imagine when one of these suckers blow your doors off while you're driving!

      Capacitors that go POP are usually electrolytics, where the electrolyte boils when it gets shorted. There are capacitors that are self-repairing, a short vaporizes the conductor around the failure. Presumably, the capacitors they are proposing here, doping the carbon fibers with lithium, would work that way.

      • by ichthus (72442)
        Dielectric breakdown [wikipedia.org] (the dielectric being the material between the plates of a capacitor) can be violent in any capacitor medium.
  • touch the wrong thing in your car and it kills you.
  • I'd think they'd be far safer in the front and rear quarter panels I wouldn't want a capacitor in my cars door or roof that is just asking for trouble when it comes to accidents especially ones where the passengers might have to be cut free from a wreck.

  • by sleep-doc (905583) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:35AM (#36341890)
    Besides mechanics, please recall that EMS and police often face the issue of getting through metal to reach injured passengers. The 200 volts typically in a hybrid battery is one issue, knowing the location of batteries and how to disconnnect them another, but the thought of potentially still charged capacitors in the body frame sounds like an issue that could hinder response to emergencies.
    • by luisdom (560067)

      Put them into floor reinforcements. Hollow, very hard to break, and EMS will avoid them anyway when doing the cutting part.

  • by s13g3 (110658) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:38AM (#36341906) Journal
    Agreed with previous posters, having electricity stored in such a way throughout a vehicle - regardless of volts or amps - doesn't seem like such a hot idea (pun intended). It would certainly be a no-go on any vehicle with any sort of secondary, fueled motor, be it gas, hydrogen, etc., and the potential for other accident based on age, faulty manufacture, simple atmospheric conditions (how well will these fare when exposed to salt air in coastal areas) and too many other things to list here is simply enormous. There is danger enough in basic battery systems during a car accident, especially a major one that might involve another I.C.E. vehicle on fire... I don't relish the idea of trying to an injured person out a car that might kill me for touching the wrong exposed part of a wrecked frame.
    • by houghi (78078)

      If you replace electricity with fuel, you would get to the same result, I assume.

      At least they try to think outside the box and then see where it leads them. Sure it might kill a few people, but so did planes and steam engines and a lot of other things before they were turned into more save designs.

      • by westlake (615356)

        Sure it might kill a few people, but so did planes and steam engines and a lot of other things before they were turned into more safe designs.

        The Wright Flyer, 1903. The DC-3,1936.

        It can take a long time to build trust and safety into your new machine.

        The hybrid gas-electric car with a capacitor enters a market where there are many good - competitive - alternatives. It won't be granted a bye on safety simply because the tech is new.

        It isn't as if you were launching the first passenger steamboat on the Mississippi.

    • It would certainly be a no-go on any vehicle with any sort of secondary, fueled motor, be it gas, hydrogen, etc.

      Why? Even if the vehicle in question lacks an ICE and liquid fuel, it has potential to crash into another vehicle so equipped.

    • by inKubus (199753)

      Couldn't you just put some sort of microcontroller in with the caps so they only discharge if they are getting a code signal? Certainly you'd need some relays or big ass FETs or SCRs inside but you'd need those anyway for your "throttle", why not just put it in with the power source in one package? Then there's no worries about the emergency responders, car wrecks, etc. because you can just stick it all in a hardened package and just have a few connectors to the rest of the car. Obviously the body panel

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:44AM (#36341930) Homepage Journal

    Combine these capacitors in body together with the motor in wheel [e-traction.com] thing, and you'll get that much closer to a car, that you can't fix without replacing too many functional parts, when all you needed to do was to replace wheels (how about winter?) and do some body work after a minor accident, so at some point the most economic thing will be just to toss the car away and get a new one.

    Is that where they are going with this?

    How about stopping with all this nonsense with the batteries and working on nuclear engines instead?

    • Given how badly the morons around here drive, the last thing I'd want is them in charge of is a small nuclear reactor.

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        Why? A small nuclear reactor would be much safer than a tank of gas for example, as small nuclear reactors are only based on decay of the non-fissionable elements. Containing small amounts of nuclear material inside a metal box is not really that complicated, and it does not explode on impact for example.

        • A leak in the reactor could cause a few problems though.

          • by roman_mir (125474)

            here is what I am talking about [wikipedia.org], I am sure if they can use something like that on a space craft, they can figure out how to use something of that type in a car, having a number of precautions, including various counters etc., what would prevent any problem ahead of time. It's all a matter of cost, any issue is a matter of cost, but with nuclear reactors the problem is not cost today, it's government not letting people to work with it without government getting their panties in a knot.

            • Safe use of RTGs requires containment of the radioisotopes long after the productive life of the unit.

              This?

              • by roman_mir (125474)

                Sure, absolutely. That's where the research needs to go, and where the private research would go if there was no government impeding on our freedoms.

                • So you would trust corporations to do this properly even though the link your sig is an object lesson in what happens when corporations aren't watched properly? Corporations can't be given absolute freedom, especially when the well-being of large amounts of people is at stake. A satellite orbiting the earth is so much less of a threat to health than millions of cars with the same power cell. It's a good idea, but I wouldn't trust Ford et al as far as I could throw them to do it properly.

                  • by roman_mir (125474)

                    So you would trust corporations to do this properly even though the link your sig is an object lesson in what happens when corporations aren't watched properly?

                    - if you actually watched the video in that link, you'd understand that the failure was the government meddling in business and economy, not corporations, and that's why the guy was able to predict it accurately, because it was very logical as to what government was doing to the money and laws that was going eventually to crash the housing bubble and eventually the currency and economy.

                    If you watched that video and got the message that there was a need for more government regulations, rather than for less

                    • What I got from the video was that, while government meddling contributed, it was the selling of debt that really brought the house down. In the good old days if an organisation lent you money they expected to get paid back. With the selling on of debt that was no longer a problem so these companies started throwing money at people who would never be able to pay it back. Now you can blame your government for that behaviour but I'm not sure why.

                      Not buying Ford wouldn't keep you from being poisoned by thei

                    • by roman_mir (125474)

                      it was the selling of debt that really brought the house down

                      - you should watch it again. The lax lending standards were the result of government policies, pushed via housing acts, FHA, Freddie/Fannie, while the money came from the Fed.

                      In absence of government, banks compete based on risk aversion and lending standards are high. Government created FDIC, which destroyed the reason for customers to bother checking the banks' risk aversion, destroyed reason for banks to bother with that, customers won't leave, they don't care.

                      Government regulation creates the moral haz

            • You should start calling it a "nuclear battery" instead of a "reactor" when you're talking about it here. Doing so will give everybody else a more reasonable impression (because when you say "reactor" they're thinking Fukushima, or at least fission-powered naval vessel).

        • That's not a nuclear reactor, that's an RTG, and the power-to-weight ratio is a couple orders of magnitude too low to power a usable car.

          On the other hand, something like the SAFE-400 [wikipedia.org] would be viable, if a bit heavy. Good luck shielding one well enough that it wouldn't release fission waste products in a worst-case accident, though.

        • by tnk1 (899206)

          Did you NOT see what happens to the atomic powered cars wrecks in Fallout 3?

          Those who forget dystopian alternate reality video games are doomed to repeat them.

        • Disposal and proliferation. What happens when your redneck neighbor lets his nuclear-powered beater corrode in the back yard for 10 years? And do you really want someone being able to go to any car dealer to get their dirty bomb payload? The device itself, in good condition and being used properly would be superior to any car on the road now. Unfortunately when it comes into contact with reality, the dream falls to pieces.
    • by optimism (2183618)

      "Combine these capacitors in body together with the motor in wheel [e-traction.com] thing, and you'll get that much closer to a car, that you can't fix without replacing too many functional parts, when all you needed to do was to replace wheels (how about winter?) and do some body work after a minor accident"

      On the contrary, the motor-in-wheel concept radically ~improves~ the maintainability of a car.

      Motor-in-wheel eliminates the transmission, differentials, drive shafts, and CV joints. That's a whole lot o

      • by roman_mir (125474)

        and the shock to the motor assembly? I didn't say it's a completely useless idea, it has limited use potential for fork lifters maybe, but for outside use in cars/trucks/buses/whatever? Yeah, not until we have roads made of perfectly straight glass.

      • The biggest problem with the motor-in-wheel design appears to be the increased unsprung mass, which affects suspension response. I'm confident that problem will be solved by a combination of modern lightweight components, plus changing driver expectations of performance. Folks who drive hybrids today, have already accepted that lower performance and ride quality are an acceptable price for better mileage.

        The only way "changing driver expectations of performance" is going to fly is if the performance is impr

  • I mean, it sounds good at first. Make the whole car frame into a battery with supplementary capacitors. Maximize the power to weight ratio. Why not?

    Well... battery material isn't necessarily a great structural material. Preventing short circuits in a vibrating frame with moving parts sounds fairly nightmarish. Replacing a worn out battery means replacing your car. And try not to get into an accident, and god help the EMT that tries to pry you out of the accident, especially if it's raining. That's what I ca

  • by metalmonkey (1083851) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @08:52AM (#36341978) Homepage

    What could possibly go wrong driving around at speed with a tank of highly flammable liquid strapped to the undercarriage of the car.
    What insanity!!!
    The same can be said for LPG a high pressure canister of highly flammable GAS just behind your seat - imagine that in a crash.

    Any dense energy source put into a car has a potential for that energy to be released in a way that is not intended especially in a crash. It is the details of the design that can make the energy storage (relatively) safe.

    • by thegarbz (1787294)

      There's a differences in not the worst case, but the simple case of your examples from this one. We have a tank of volatile liquid which is dangerous when exposed only to an ignition source and oxygen, vs something that could make the car live.

      An emergency services worker probably knows full well not to step in a car to help a victim when there's fuel leaking everywhere and a fire nearby. The same can not be said for someone approaching a wreckage which now simply may be live. There's no indication of the d

    • by ErikZ (55491) *

      Good thing you weren't around a hundred years ago, we'd all be riding bicycles today.

      Advancement REQUIRES risk taking.

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "Advancement REQUIRES risk taking."

        You aren't a mechanic I take it? There is a difference between "risky" and "silly".

        I defy you to propose a practical way to implement, maintain, and repair "body panel capacitor" technology. Make it crashworthy, easy to fix, and economical to repair. Make it and its interconnects and power management work well in areas subject to road salt in winter.

        BTW, cars were well-established a century ago.

    • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:31AM (#36342776)

      Doors, hoods, and roofs are frequently subject to damage in crashes. Th

      Fuel tanks are in protected locations. Bodywork is not a protected location.

      Put the capacitors in a nice standard, removable package and it becomes practical because it can be protected AND easily serviced.

      Why, on a supposedly tech-literate forum, does this need to be explained?

    • I will take my chances. You can ride your bike.

    • by LWATCDR (28044)

      Except they don't make the fuel tank frames and body panels.
      They are small strong containers thats only stress is contain the fuel.

  • Polarize the hull plating!

  • I wonder if the body panels could be engineered to take advantage of that little bit of static electricity that happens if your tires don't ground your vehicle?

  • by PPH (736903) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @11:13AM (#36342672)

    Or in the frame?

    I'd better remember that the next time I'm drilling some holes to mount a CB radio antenna or eight track player.

  • Any experienced mechanic would laugh at the proposed locations.
    (I'll be polite and avoid the phrase "fucking stupid".)

    The door skins and hood are frequently damaged in minor crashes, and required FLEXIBLE connection to the electrical system because they move. Serviceability would suck, and once damaged the parts would be unusable. Good luck ever fixing your car with aftermarket door skins or hood.

    Take the SAME area, make a nice compact quick-swap STANDARD form-factor "capacitor module", and use those.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      The door skins and hood are more and more commonly simply replaced when they are damaged. For the average vehicle a door shell is quite a bit cheaper than any significant body work; only for very new vehicles is this not true. Hoods are generally considered to be economically unrepairable if they have any but the very slightest damage because of the difficulty in getting a repair on a hood to behave like the rest of the hood. Trunk lids are more commonly repaired because they are not so large and thus they

  • Not one quip 'til now about a Flux Capacitor, or electric/hybrid cars that will be able to travel back in time?
    It's a terrible pun, but they could rename the Prius to "Pre-us"....
  • by couchslug (175151) on Sunday June 05, 2011 @12:53PM (#36343284)

    Vehicle fires are common, and even without a petrol tank they burn very nicely. Exotic materials can produce dangerous products when burned, and their inhalation isn't just an EMS issue

    When carbon fiber aircraft structures are burned or damaged, Crash Recovery teams are required to spray them with a fixative (commercial floor wax is one) then wrap them in plastic for transport and disposal.

    A CONTAINERIZED capacitor can retain material which will be destroyed in a fire if it's the skin of the vehicle.

    • When carbon fiber aircraft structures are burned or damaged, Crash Recovery teams are required to spray them with a fixative (commercial floor wax is one) then wrap them in plastic for transport and disposal.

      I wonder, does the same thing happen when rich idiots wreck their supercars?

      • by couchslug (175151)

        [quote]
        I wonder, does the same thing happen when rich idiots wreck their supercars?
        [/quote]
        The same products are produced by burning composite.

        Responders aren't (yet) trained heavily in dealing with burning composite vehicles.

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