When you design a race car, you're always looking to save weight.
Minimizing some components, using high-tech materials for others and applying clever engineering can all result in a race car that's lighter, stiffer and ultimately quicker than the next guy's.
The same applies even for electric racing cars, and BBC News reveals that U.K-based BAE Systems and Lola-Drayson are collaborating on technology that uses a specially-designed battery as a structural element.
For quite some time now, formula cars have used the engine as a structural component of the chassis.
By doing so, you reduce the extra weight and space required by a chassis that would otherwise have to hold the engine, as it does in a road car. Removing this requirement allows for a lighter, stiffer racing car.
BAE Systems is applying the same theory to its battery technology, but rather than using a regular battery in a casing as a structural element, its carbon-fiber battery technology incorporates nickel-based chemistry - so rather than the battery being the basis of a structure, the structure itself is a battery.
BAE's material effectively builds a battery into the fabric of the carbon-fiber. The company's Steward Penney explains:
"A battery shaped like a beam... is just an odd-shaped battery, it isn't a structural battery,"
"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."
To prove the technology works, BAE Systems, which originally designed the technology for the military, has made an unmanned aerial vehicle from the material, as well as a hand-held torch.
The chemistry isn't perfect yet, and the current material only has about a third the energy density of your average lead-acid car battery, and about a tenth that of lithium-ion. BAE is working to improve this, as well as integrating lithium technology, for a safe, long-lasting structural battery.
The technology is currently undergoing tests in the Lola-Drayson B12/69EV electric race car, which was revealed at the Autosport Show in the U.K. a month ago.