In the racing game, shedding weight is key towards going faster. A new technology has been developed that essentially turns carbon fiber and glass reinforced plastics into a power source — that means turning the car's frame into a battery instead of relying on hefty batteries.
British defense firm BAE Systems is working on the technology that essentially creates "structural batteries." According to a press release, the process "merges battery chemistries into composite materials that can be molded into complex 3D shapes and so form the structure of the device itself."
The company is testing the technology in the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV Le Mans car. The Le Mans is a grueling 24-hour endurance race that pushes even the traditional race cars to the edge, but the research team is focused on the end goal of the Lola-Drayson clocking in as the world's fastest electric race vehicle.
The Lola-Drayson is pretty impressive, with 850 horsepower and top speeds of over 200 mph. Power for the electric drivetrain will be stored in battery cells, with the energy stored in the composite frame going to power some of the on-board electronics. Each wheel will be powered by four axial flux Oxford YASA motors, and as is common for most electric vehicles, it will have just one gear.
With these kinds of specs the Lola-Drayson team is hoping to make a strong showing at the time trials before the race. Future improvements are already in the works, such as experimenting with lithium ion and lithium polymers that would extend the battery life bringing a fastest electric vehicle completion at the 24-hour Le Mans closer to reality.
The structural battery isn't just about race cars however, and BAE is quick to point out it could have a wide range of applications. The concept has already been tested in unmanned drones and flashlights designed to lighten the load soldiers need to carry in their packs. Other applications include working the battery technology into cloth so tents or electric blankets could provide their own power.
As with every new technology there are hurdles to cross such as increasing power density that is currently pretty low (a third of car batteries and a tenth of lithium batteries in consumer goods)
Nevertheless, it is great to see this cutting edge technology being put into practice with the Lola-Drayson if even if it is on a small scale to start. In racing, you don't win by not evolving with the times and this unique way to shed weight, add power and potentially go down in history!