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Panel-powered car could be reality in five years, says Australian university

Researchers have developed lightweight supercapacitors that can be combined with regular batteries to dramatically boost the power of an electric car.

The supercapacitors – a ‘sandwich’ of electrolyte between two all-carbon electrodes – were made into a thin and extremely strong film with a high power density. This film could be embedded in a car's body panels, roof, doors, bonnet and floor, storing enough energy to turbocharge an electric car's battery in just a few minutes.

The findings mean a car partly powered by its own body panels could be a reality within five years, said PhD researcher Marco Notarianni, from QUT's Science and Engineering Faculty – Institute for Future Environments, who was part of the team from QUT's Battery Interest Group that made the discovery.

‘Vehicles need an extra energy spurt for acceleration, and this is where supercapacitors come in. They hold a limited amount of charge, but they are able to deliver it very quickly, making them the perfect complement to mass-storage batteries,’ he said.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Jinzhang Liu added: ‘In the future, it is hoped the supercapacitor will be developed to store more energy than a Li-Ion battery while retaining the ability to release its energy up to 10 times faster – meaning the car could be entirely powered by the supercapacitors in its body panels.

‘After one full charge this car should be able to run up to 500km – similar to a petrol-powered car and more than double the current limit of an electric car.’

He added that the technology would also potentially be used for rapid charges of other battery-powered devices.

Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 14 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. Natalie works across the magazine portfolio and updates the company websites with daily news, interviews and road test content.

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