Lola-Drayson electric racing car. Image: Drayson RacingEnlarge Photo
For some time now in a variety of motorsport disciplines, the engine and transmission has acted as a stressed member of the car's structure.
What that means, is that rather than mount the engine and gearbox in a chassis, the drivetrain becomes part of the chassis - to which other components such as suspension are mounted.
U.K-based BAE Systems is testing the same concept with an electric racing car, and is calling it a "structural battery".
The BBC reveals that BAE is testing the carbon fiber battery in a Lola-Drayson racing car chassis, and has previously tested the technology in a small, unmanned aircraft - and even a hand-held torch.
The concept isn't as simple as designing a battery casing that acts as a structural member. Instead, BAE is incorporating the battery's nickel chemistry into the carbon fiber, so that virtually any shape could be used as required.
Stewart Penney of BAE explains, "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."
That offers potential advantages greater than even a structural engine has - the ability to form the structural battery into whichever shape is strongest, most efficient or most useful. The battery could itself even become a frame in which to mount an electric motor.
The technology is in the early stages of development - currently, the energy density of the batteries is only a third that of a regular car battery, and a tenth that of typical lithium-ion batteries. The company hopes to work on lithium-based structural batteries in the future.
Other characteristics BAE is working on include long life and fire resistance - both a byproduct of the technology's original intended military use.
The Lola-Drayson electric racing car will be used to test the technology to determine its viability.
Stuart Penney said, "It's only when you shake rattle and roll these things on a real-world platform that you uncover issues."