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DOE selects 7 projects for up to $21.75M in funding to develop stronger and lighter materials for cars and trucks

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected for funding seven new projects to accelerate the development and deployment of stronger and lighter materials for the next generation of cars and trucks. These projects include the development and validation of modeling tools to deliver higher performing carbon fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as research into new lightweight, high-strength alloys for energy-efficient vehicle and truck engines.

The Energy Department will provide $8 million this year for these awards, and has requested an additional $13.75 million next year, subject to congressional appropriations, to support the completion of these projects over the next two to four years. DOE’s investments are leveraging an additional $11 million from the private sector.

These projects support the Materials Genome Initiative (earlier post), an effort announced by President Obama to double the speed and cut the cost of discovering, developing, and deploying new high-tech materials in the United States.

Advanced materials are essential for boosting the fuel economy of cars and trucks while maintaining and improving safety and performance. Replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials—including advanced high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum, and carbon fiber composites—allows vehicle manufacturers to include additional safety devices, integrated electronic systems and emissions control equipment on vehicles without increasing their weight, DOE noted. Using lighter materials also reduces a vehicle’s fuel consumption. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by 10% can improve the fuel economy by 6–8%, for example.

The new investments announced today support materials innovation in two critical areas: Improving Carbon Fiber Composites And Advanced Steel Through Computational Design; and Advanced Alloy Development for Automotive and Heavy-Duty Engines.

Improving Carbon Fiber Composites and Advanced Steel through Computational Design. The Energy Department will award two projects to validate existing modeling tools to optimize the performance and cost-effectiveness of carbon fiber and other specialized composite materials for vehicle body, chassis and interior uses.

The Department is also investing $6 million to develop new modeling tools to advance third-generation high-strength steels. Through this project, Detroit-based United States Automotive Materials Partnership will leverage an additional $2.5 million in private investment to help create modeling tools for deploying high-strength steels for lighter passenger vehicles.

Improving Carbon Fiber Composites and Advanced Steel through Computational Design
Lead organization Description Funding
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Predictive Engineering Tools for Injection‐Molded Long‐Carbon‐ Fiber Thermoplastic Composites. Integrate and validate fiber orientation and length distribution models for injection molded long‐carbon fiber thermoplastic composites.  Models will be validated for a complex three‐dimensional automotive part made from long‐carbon fiber thermoplastic composites.    $1,001,000
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Fiber Orientation and Fiber Length Distribution Prediction for Injection Molded Long Carbon Fiber Composites. Implement and validate computational tools for prediction of fiber orientation and fiber length distribution in injection molded long carbon fiber thermoplastic composites for automotive applications. Validation would be performed on a 3‐D complex part. $747,820
United States Automotive Materials Partnership Integrated Computational Materials Engineering Approach to Development of Lightweight 3GAHSS Vehicle Assembly. Demonstrate an ICME (integrated computational materials engineering) approach for the development and deployment of third generation advanced high strength steels (3GAHSS) for weight reduction in passenger vehicles through the integration and application of a suite of models, and simulate forming and performance for an assembly of at least four components. $6,000,000

Advanced Alloy Development for Automotive and Heavy-Duty Engines. Four projects that will develop lightweight, high-strength alloys for automotive and heavy duty engine blocks and cylinder heads.

Advanced Alloy Development for Automotive and Heavy-Duty Engines
Lead organization
Description Funding
Ford Motor Company ICME Guided Development of Advanced Lightweight Cast Aluminum Alloys for Automotive Engine Applications. Develop a new class of advanced, cost competitive aluminum casting alloys, using ICME tools, providing a 25% improvement in component strength relative to components made with A319 or A356 alloys using sand and semi‐permanent casting processes for high‐performance engine applications. $3,290,000
Oak Ridge National Laboratory High Performance Cast Aluminum Alloys for Next Generation Passenger Vehicle Engines. Develop and implement cost‐effective and improved cast aluminum alloys that would enable the design of higher efficiency light‐duty passenger vehicle engines.  Small batch castings of identified alloys will be harvested for property measurements. $3,500,000
General Motors Computational design and Development of a New, Lightweight Cast Alloy for Advanced Cylinder Heads in High‐efficiency, Light‐duty Engines. Demonstrate the use of ICME tools to accelerate the development of a new, high‐performance cast alloy for critical structure applications like high‐efficiency automotive engines with minimum lead‐time and cost. Comprehensive cost models will also be developed for annual production runs up to 500,000 units of cylinder heads using the new alloy. $3,498,650
Caterpillar Inc. Development of Advanced High Strength Cast Alloys for Heavy Duty Engines. Develop new, high‐strength ferrous alloys for cylinder heads and engine blocks to allow for higher cylinder pressures and increased engine efficiency.  A detailed cost model for the new component design will be developed to compare performance versus cost tradeoffs of the new design compared to current production components. $3,477,130



Very smart projects that USA and the whole world may eventually benefit. Lighter vehicles = more efficient vehicles = reduced fuel consumption = reduced oil imports = reduced GHG emissions = reduced climate extremes = on-going operation cost etc.

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