Automotive advances – the latest engineering technologies for the car of the future
As Highways England announces plans for off-road trials of technology that will allow electric vehicles to charge whilst on the move, we look at some of the other latest developments in engineering technology for the automotive industry.
A polymer that can take the heat
A low-cost, flexible polymer that can tolerate high temperatures has been developed, which could provide energy storage in electric vehicles. The Boron-based substance is dielectric - it stores electric charge when exposed to an electric field. In electric vehicles, heavy ceramic dielectric substances are currently used to release current quickly for start-up, or to convert DC from batteries into AC to run an electric motor. However, this new polymer is much lighter than previous materials, allowing improved efficiency.
Remanufacturing is revived by 3D printing
3D printing has so far been restricted primarily to making prototypes of products rather than mass manufacturing. However, 3D printing could be of great benefit to remanufacturing. Sometimes a machine only needs a few parts to be repaired or replaced to restore it to working order. This has traditionally been an expensive and time consuming process, and it can be particularly tough or costly to source replacement parts for machines which have long since gone out of production – if you own a classic car you may have experienced this problem for yourself.
3D printing offers the prospect of being able to effectively remake existing parts by replacing portions that are missing, worn down or broken by depositing melted material directly onto the objects surface. This could enable the repair of vintage machinery without the costs associated with fully manufacturing one-off parts. This repair method is particularly useful for rotating components, and the applications include energy, aerospace and, as you may imagine, automobile repair.
Honeycomb that improves vehicle safety
A new honeycomb-like structure has been designed to withstand repeated heavy impacts, returning to their original shape following compression. Existing honeycomb technology is only designed to absorb a single impact, so this new design could be used to produce much more durable equipment. This technology could have a wide range of applications, including automotive safety – with bumpers being one use envisaged already. Another application currently being worked into a prototype is for military helmets – where the ability to survive multiple bullet strikes could be a real life saver.
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