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[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]

CarboSax: new joint venture for more sustainable carbon fiber production forms in Germany

October 13, 2016

PD Glasseiden, a Germany-based producer of fiberglass; European Carbon Fiber GmbH; and the ForschungsCampus Open Hybrid LabFactory e.V., established under the auspices of the Lower Saxony Research Centre for Vehicle Technology at the TU Braunschweig and Volkswagen AG have formed a joint venture—CarboSax GmbH—to pursue developing, manufacturing and distributing more sustainable carbon fibers in Germany.

In the first step at a location in Chemnitz, Saxony, CarboSax will build a pilot line for the sustainable production of carbon fibers. The objective of this carbon fiber pilot line production is a significant reduction in production costs by 30% over currently available commercial carbon fibers. This cost reduction is required to further enable the use of carbon fiber in mass production in the automotive industry, mechanical engineering and wind power. An equal objective is a reduction of at least 50% in CO2 emissions from carbon fiber production.

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FANUC to build factory of the future using NVIDIA AI platform; self-teaching robots in the FIELD system

October 05, 2016

NVIDIA and FANUC Corporation are collaborating to implement artificial intelligence on the FANUC Intelligent Edge Link and Drive (FIELD) system to increase robotics productivity and bring new capabilities to automated factories worldwide.

Adding AI to the FIELD system will give robots the ability to teach themselves to do tasks faster and more efficiently. By learning together, what used to take a single robot 8 hours can now be done by eight robots in an hour.

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Schaeffler and IBM sign Watson IoT partnership; Industry 4.0

October 04, 2016

Leading automotive and industrial supplier Schaeffler has signed a multi-year strategic partnership agreement with IBM to accelerate the digital transformation of its entire operations and customer solutions using Watson’s cognitive intelligence and insight from billions of sensors that make up the Internet of Things (IoT).

Schaeffler manufactures millions of precision-engineered products that help to keep the world’s machines moving—from those that go into automotive clutch systems, to those in hybrid engines and the huge industrial bearings used in wind turbines. Through the agreement, Schaeffler will tap IBM’s cloud-based Watson IoT technologies to help transform every aspect of its business from product development, through to manufacturing and its supply chain, sales and aftersales service.

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Audi opens €1B San José Chiapa plant in Mexico; 1st on N.A. continent; Smart Factory

October 02, 2016

Audi is further expanding its worldwide production network with the opening of the company’s first automobile plant on the North American continent. This will be the first time the company has produced a model for the global market at a location outside of the European continent.

Audi will produce the new generation of the Audi Q5 for the world market in San José Chiapa in Mexico’s federal state of Puebla. The €1-billion plant has an annual production capacity of approximately 150,000 premium SUVs. By the end of the year, a total of 4,200 jobs will be created locally at Audi México.

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New Audi paintshop at Ingolstadt; heating energy & water per car down by 20%, CO2 by 30%, VOCs by 90%; bell-bell

September 22, 2016

Audi has put a new topcoat paint shop into operation at its plant in Ingolstadt. The new paint shop incorporates technologies such as air recirculation, dry separation and exhaust air cleaning that enable a significant reduction in the use of resources. Heating energy and water consumption per car are reduced by 20%. Air recirculation also helps to reduce CO₂‑emissions per painted car by 30%, while the cleaning of exhaust air reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 90%.

The new topcoat point line‑in the north of the plant site also introduces state‑of‑the‑art painting technology at Audi: paint‑application equipment with robot technology and electrostatic high‑speed rotation spray guns carry out the “bell‑bell” painting process fully automatically.

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GM commits to 100% renewable energy by 2050

September 15, 2016

General Motors plans to generate or source all electrical power for its 350 operations in 59 countries with 100% renewable energy—such as wind, sun and landfill gas—by 2050.

This new renewable energy goal, along with the pursuit of electrified vehicles and efficient manufacturing, is part of the company’s overall approach to strengthening its business, improving communities and addressing climate change. GM is also joining RE100, a global collaborative initiative of businesses committed to 100 percent renewable electricity, working to increase demand for clean power.

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Kiel nanoscale-sculpturing makes metal surfaces strong, resistant, and multifunctional; multi-material joining

September 08, 2016

Researchers at the University of Kiel (Germany) have developed a new process—which they call “nanoscale-sculpturing”—for the surface preparation of metals.

Nanoscale-sculpturing, which is based on knowledge from semiconductor etching, turns surfaces of everyday metals into their most stable configuration, but leaves the bulk properties unaffected. Thus, nanoscale-sculpturing ensures stronger, reliable joints to nearly all materials, reduces corrosion vastly, and generates a multitude of multifunctional surface properties. An open-access paper on their work is published in the RSC journal Nanoscale Horizons.

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Stratasys demonstrates next-gen 3D printing for aerospace and automotive manufacturing; partnering with Ford

September 06, 2016

Stratasys Ltd., the 3D printing and additive manufacturing solutions company, will preview demonstrations of next-generation manufacturing technologies at IMTS 2016 (International Manufacturing Technology Show, 12-17 September) as part of its SHAPING WHAT’S NEXT vision for manufacturing.

The Stratasys Infinite-Build 3D Demonstrator is designed to address the requirements of aerospace, automotive and other industries for large lightweight, thermoplastic parts with repeatable mechanical properties. The Infinite-Build 3D Demonstrator features a novel approach to Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) extrusion that increases throughput and repeatability.

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DOE HPC4Mfg program funds 13 projects to advance US manufacturing; welding, Li-S batteries among projects

August 31, 2016

A US Department of Energy (DOE) program designed to spur the use of high performance supercomputers to advance US manufacturing has funded 13 new industry projects for a total of $3.8 million. Among the projects selected are one by GM and EPRI of California to improve welding techniques for automobile manufacturing and power plant builds in partnership with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL).

Another one of the 13 projects is led by Sepion Technologies, which will partner with LBNL to make new membranes to increase the lifetime of Li-S batteries for hybrid airplanes.

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AK Steel introduces NEXMET family of next generation high strength steels for automotive lightweighting

August 22, 2016

AK Steel launched NEXMET, an new family of high strength steels for use in automotive lightweighting applications. These products are specifically designed to assist automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) in meeting 2025 US Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) targets.

AK Steel’s NEXMET family of products will offer high strength, greater ductility (elongation), and improved formability solutions for a range of needs for structural and exterior automotive body lightweighting uses.

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ExxonMobil & Georgia Tech CMS membrane brings advantages of reverse osmosis separations to hydrocarbon mixtures; potential significant cuts in chemical manufacturing energy use & emissions

August 19, 2016

Scientists from ExxonMobil and the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed new free-standing carbon molecular sieve (CMS) membrane technology that could significantly reduce the amount of energy and emissions associated with manufacturing plastics. Results of the research were published in Science. Using a molecular-level filter, the new process employs a form of reverse osmosis to separate para-xylene, a chemical building block for polyester and plastics, from complex hydrocarbon mixtures. The current commercial-scale process used around the world relies on energy and heat to separate those molecules.

Reverse-osmosis membranes are already widely used to desalinate seawater, consuming a fraction of the energy required by thermally driven processes. The new organic solvent reverse osmosis process is believed to be the first use of reverse osmosis with carbon membranes to separate liquid hydrocarbons.

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DOE to award up to $137M for SuperTruck II, Vehicle Technology Office programs

August 16, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will invest up to $137 million in two programs, subject to appropriations, to develop next-generation technologies that will support industry in going beyond the newly announced Phase II standard for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (earlier post) and also accelerating technology advances for passenger cars and light trucks.

One initiative, SuperTruck II (earlier post), will award $80 million to four projects to develop and to demonstrate cost-effective technologies that more than double the freight efficiency of Class 8 trucks. Through the other initiative, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies Office Program Wide Funding Opportunity Announcement (earlier post)selections, 35 new projects will receive $57 million to develop and deploy a wide array of cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce carbon emissions and petroleum consumption in passenger cars and light trucks.

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CALSTART white paper shows nationwide tech supplier industry ready to support more efficient heavy-duty trucks and buses

August 12, 2016

A new high-level white-paper from clean transportation industry group CALSTART shows that US companies that develop and manufacture high-efficiency, low-carbon technologies for heavy-duty vehicles are ready to support more efficient trucks and buses.

In a first attempt to gauge the scope of the United States’ high-efficiency technology supplier sector for heavy-duty trucks and buses, CALSTART conducted an initial scan of businesses and identified and mapped 255 companies. The firms range from vehicle manufacturers to component suppliers to technology developers, and operate from 535 facilities in 40 states, impacting 80% of the nation.

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Researchers gain better insight into transformation of steel; managing nucleation could limit need for alloying elements

August 10, 2016

Researchers at TU Delft have shed new light on the process of nucleation in the polymorphic transformation of solid materials—specifically, steel. Polymorphism is the ability of a solid material to exist in more than one phase or crystal structure. Polymorphism may occur in metals, alloys, ceramics, minerals, polymers, and pharmaceutical substances.

In an open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the team presented in-situ three-dimensional x-ray diffraction (3DXRD) microscopy measurements of the ferrite (α) to austenite (γ) transformation in steel during heating, which the team performed at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility.

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Ford’s new Dagenham Diesel EcoBlue engine production line reduces energy and water use by more than 50%

August 04, 2016

The new Ford EcoBlue diesel engine production line at Dagenham Engine Plant will reduce water and energy consumption by more than 50%. Dagenham Engine Plant is Ford’s largest diesel engine production facility globally, and produced the first EcoBlue diesel engine (earlier post) in April this year. Water usage per engine will be among the lowest at any Ford manufacturing facility worldwide, delivering an anticipated annual saving of 17.5 million liters of water compared with 2011—enough to fill seven Olympic-size swimming pools.

The reduction in the volume of coolant pumped around the facility also helps to significantly reduce energy usage. Three smaller coolant systems require around 70% less energy, and contribute to reducing energy use per engine from 188 kWh in 2011 to 92 kWh in 2016—the energy saved is roughly enough to power an average house for a week.

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SMDI releases steel roadmap for automotive; Gen3 AHSS

August 02, 2016

Over the past 10 years, new steel innovations have reduced automotive component and sub-system mass by nearly 25%; some studies have shown mass savings up to 29% versus traditional mild steel benchmarks. The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI)—a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI)—has now released its 2016 Steel Industry Technology Roadmap for Automotive.

The roadmap outlines the long-term technology needs to support future automotive material selection decisions with advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) including, optimized design, fuel economy, strength and durability, environmental performance and value.

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EIA projects energy intensity of US steel production to drop 27% by 2040

July 29, 2016

Steel production is energy-intensive; in 2015, the steel industry accounted for 1.5% of all industrial shipments in the US but 6.1% of industrial delivered energy consumption. The US Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook 2016 (AEO2016) Reference case projects that energy use in the steel industry will further increase by 11% over 2015–2040.

Over the same period, however, the AEO2016 projects in its Reference case a 27% drop in the steel industry’s energy intensity, compared with an 18% reduction in total industrial energy intensity. Several alternative cases examine drivers for further energy intensity reductions in the steel industry.

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Study: Overall automotive aluminum recycling rate above 90%

New research from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s (WPI) Center for Resource Recovery and Recycling calculated an overall recycling rate of 91% for automotive aluminum. The peer-reviewed study, funded by the Aluminum Association, examines how much aluminum used in the United States’ light-duty automotive sector is recovered and recycled from vehicles at end of life.

The new study, Automotive Aluminum Recycling at End of Life: A Grave-to-Gate Analysis, details a “grave-to-gate” analysis, which spans the moment an automobile becomes obsolete to the moment the aluminum metal units are completely recycled and enter back into life as input material for new applications, including vehicles. Researchers attribute automotive aluminum’s high recycling rate to the metal’s economic value, citing the “concerted effort to recover this valuable lightweight commodity from end-of-life vehicles.”

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BMW provides some insight into Dingolfing eDrive competence center; motors, battery packs and more

During its Innovation Days 2016 event in Munich, the BMW Group provided some insight into its Dingolfing competence center for the manufacture of electric drive systems (eDrive). Dingolfing supplies the high-voltage batteries and other chassis and powertrain components for BMW i models and the BMW Group’s plug-in hybrid models—current (earlier post) and future.

Beginning with the launch of the first BMW i production models, the Dingolfing plant has produced high-voltage batteries and other powertrain and chassis components for these vehicles. Prior to that, the plant had supplied high-voltage batteries for the BMW Active E; BMW 3 Series ActiveHybrid; BMW 5 Series ActiveHybrid; and BMW 7 Series ActiveHybrid. Now, with the market launch of the first plug-in hybrid versions of the BMW core-brand models—for which the plant supplies the rear-mounted electric motors and all high-voltage battery packs—production of BMW eDrive components in Dingolfing is scaling up once again.

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BMW introducing fully-automated, optical measuring cell in pilot plant; digitalization for production

July 28, 2016

The BMW Group has introduced a fully-automated, optical measuring cell in its pilot plant in Munich. Freely moving robot arms use sensors to create a three-dimensional image of an entire vehicle and generate a 3D data model from the data captured, with an accuracy of less than 100 µm. This allows barely visible deviations to be identified at an early stage.

The optical measuring cell is deployed at the interface between development and series production. It forms part of the BMW Group’s digitalization strategy for production and supports the high quality standards for production of premium vehicles. The next generation of the BMW 5 Series Sedan will be the first to benefit from this new technology.

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BMW Group expands use of additive manufacturing processes in series production; planar technologies

July 13, 2016

The BMW Group has been using components from 3D printers in series production since 2012; more than 10,000 additively-manufactured parts are built into the Rolls-Royce Phantom. The Additive Manufacturing Center at the company’s Research and Innovation Centre (FIZ) has also been using these forming processes to produce parts for the new Rolls-Royce Dawn since the beginning of the year.

The BMW Group is steadily pursuing the evolution and use of advanced additive-manufacturing methods, and says it will continue to expand the application of 3D printing in the future. Planar 3D printing technologies will enable much faster production times and more economical production.

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Volkswagen brand says it has met 2018 Think Blue. Factory. environmental targets; environmental compatibility of car production improved by 25%

July 09, 2016

The Volkswagen brand announced that it has reached the self-defined sustainability target for production set out in Think Blue. Factory. for 2018. (Earlier post.) At the brand’s production facilities throughout the world, vehicles and components are now manufactured in a way which is 25% more environmentally compatible than five years ago.

Taking the average of the five agreed environmental indicators for the Volkswagen brand, environmental impact has been reduced by 25.3%, with energy consumption down by 24.7%; CO2 emissions by 29.1%, waste production by as much as 46.5%; water consumption by 18.2%; and solvent emissions by 8.2% between 2010 and the end of 2015. These figures are determined per vehicle or component produced.

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Porsche opens new plant for eight-cylinder engines; digitalization and data management; V8s for all VW Group brands

July 08, 2016

Porsche has officially dedicated a new engine plant for eight-cylinder engines. The factory at the main site in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen works with state-of-the-art production methods, leveraging digitalization and data management. At full plant utilization produces around 200 eight-cylinder V-engines daily. The sports car manufacturer has invested nearly €80 million in the new production facility.

Porsche’s new engine plant will also contribute towards synergies within the Volkswagen Group. Plans call for producing the eight-cylinder V-engines for all Group brands in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen from this point forward.

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Renault-Nissan Alliance delivers €4.3B synergy target early; autonomous drive and connectivity expected to deliver major savings

July 06, 2016

Renault-Nissan Alliance generated €4.3 billion (US$4.8 billion) in synergies in 2015, one year ahead of schedule and an increase of 13% from 2014. Purchasing, engineering and manufacturing were the main contributors.

The Common Module Family and cross-production continue to reduce costs, while the development of technologies including autonomous drive and vehicle connectivity is expected to generate major savings moving forward. With the convergence, the Alliance expects to generate at least €5.5 billion (US$6.1 billion) in synergies in 2018

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DOE to award up to $70M for Manufacturing Institute focused on reuse, recycling and remanufacturing

June 27, 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award up to $70 million for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute focused on improving technologies and processes to achieve cost parity of recycled and waste materials with primary feedstocks, while improving material efficiency in manufacturing processes.

The new funding opportunity—(DE-FOA-0001594) “Reducing EMbodied energy And Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) in Materials Manufacturing— will support the REMADE in America Institute. The REMADE institute will enable the development and widespread deployment of key industrial platform technologies that will significantly reduce life-cycle energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with industrial-scale materials production and processing by creating new technologies for reuse, recycling, and remanufacturing of materials.

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Lamborghini inaugurates new Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory carbon fiber research center in Seattle

June 21, 2016

Automobili Lamborghini celebrated the grand opening of its new Seattle-based carbon fiber research facility, the Advanced Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL). Operating as an entity outside of the company's headquarters in Sant’Agata Bolognese, the ACSL is responsible for unlocking new potential in carbon fiber.

Seattle is a strategic location for the ACSL, particularly because of its collaboration with Boeing in working toward carbon fiber innovations that are beneficial in both automotive and aerospace applications. The grand opening of the new ACSL also marks the 30th anniversary of Lamborghini’s use of carbon fiber reinforced polymer in its vehicles.

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LA-based SMLC to lead new DOE Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute; ~$800M for 5 new hub competitions

At an event in Washington, President Obama announced that the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) will lead the new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, in partnership with the Department of Energy. The winning coalition, headquartered in Los Angeles, California brings together a consortium of nearly 200 partners from across academia, industry, and non-profits to spur advances in smart sensors and digital process controls that can significantly improve the efficiency of US advanced manufacturing.

The Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute is the ninth manufacturing hub awarded by the Obama Administration. The President also announced the launch of five new manufacturing hub competitions, which will invest nearly $800 million in combined federal and non-federal resources to support transformative manufacturing technologies from collaborative robotics to biofabrication of cells and tissues, to revolutionizing the ways materials can be reused and recycled.

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New aluminum-cerium alloys could boost rare earth production; improved energy efficiency of engines

June 03, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and partners Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Eck Industries have developed aluminum-cerium (Al-Ce) alloys that are both easier to work with and more heat tolerant than existing products.

ORNL scientists Zach Sims, Michael McGuire and Orlando Rios, along with colleagues from Eck, LLNL and Ames Laboratory in Iowa, discuss the technical and economic possibilities for aluminum–cerium alloys in an article in JOM, a publication of the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society. The alloys have the potential to jump-start US production of rare earth elements, the researchers suggested.

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RoMulus project: developing intelligent multi-sensor systems for Industry 4.0

May 29, 2016

The RoMulus (Robust multi-sensor technology for status monitoring in Industry 4.0 applications) research project project sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is focused on simplifying and accelerating the development and use of intelligent multi-sensor systems for Industry 4.0——the digitalization of production processes based on devices autonomously communicating with each other along the value chain. (Earlier post.)

Multi-sensor systems are key components for the success of Industry 4.0 applications. They record, process, and transmit a number of measurement parameters, such as pressure, acceleration, and temperature, all in a highly compact space. Machines are not the only ones to receive such sensors; workpieces are also increasingly being fitted with the intelligent sensor systems so that each product can provide its blueprint and report its manufacturing status. Based on this information, production is largely able to organize and monitor itself.

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NIST, partners create new international standard to improve sustainable manufacturing

May 27, 2016

A public-private team led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a new international standard that can “map” the critically important environmental aspects of manufacturing processes, leading to significant improvements in sustainability while keeping a product’s life cycle low cost and efficient.

ASTM member Kevin Lyons, group leader, National Institute of Standards and Technology, notes that the new standard (ASTM E3012-16, Guide for Characterizing Environmental Aspects of Manufacturing Process) provides structure and formalism to ensure consistency in characterizing sustainable manufacturing processes. From there, computers can provide information and analytics on production and performance. Lyons explains that using the standard will help business transition into science-based modeling, decision-making, and production.

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Novelis commissions $120M finishing line for automotive aluminum sheet; importance of the closed-loop recycling program

May 26, 2016

Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, celebrated the commissioning of its third CASH (Continuous Annealing Solution Heat) treatment finishing line for aluminum automotive sheet in Oswego, NY. Installed to support the production of stronger, lighter and safer vehicles, the $120-million CASH 3 line expands the company’s production to supply aluminum sheet for the body and cargo box of Ford’s 2017 F-150 SuperDuty pickups. The CASH 1 and 2 lines supply aluminum for Ford’s F-150. With the addition of the third CASH line in Oswego, Novelis has furthered its position as the leading automotive aluminum sheet supplier in North America.

The commissioning of the CASH 3 line also marks the expansion of the benchmark closed-loop recycling program—developed by Novelis, Ford and Penske—which processes roughly 25 million pounds of automotive aluminum scrap per month—more than enough to build 30,000 F-150 bodies. (Earlier post.) Recycled aluminum, which requires significantly less energy and water, avoids 95% of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with primary aluminum production.

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PSA Group outlines powertrain production strategy: gasoline PHEVs, EVs and next-gen diesel and gasoline engines

May 25, 2016

As part of the energy transition process and in line with the technological offensive spelled out in its Push to Pass strategic plan (earlier post), PSA Group will focus on diversifying its offerings with plug-in hybrid gasoline systems and next-generation electric powertrains. The latter will be used in particular to equip e-CMP, its future electric platform developed in partnership with Dongfeng Motors. (Earlier post.) At the same time, the Group will continue to develop next-generation internal combustion engines, both gasoline and diesel.

For strategic reasons, PSA Group will manufacture the main electric powertrain components in France, signalling its determination to develop high-tech operations in profitable niche markets. The electric powertrain will be produced at the Trémery/Metz centre of excellence, while the gear systems will be manufactured at the Valenciennes plant.

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Amprius demonstrates new tool for roll-to-roll manufacturing of high-energy batteries with Si nanowire anodes

May 24, 2016

Amprius, a manufacturer of high-energy lithium-ion batteries using silicon nanowire anodes (earlier post), has demonstrated a novel tool for high-volume manufacturing. The new tool, a first-of-its-kind system for inline, continuous, and roll-to-roll production of three-dimensional silicon nanowire anodes, will enable Amprius to scale manufacturing and deliver lightweight and long-lasting batteries for unmanned vehicles, wearable technologies, and electric vehicles.

Amprius developed its new tool in partnership with Meyer Burger (Netherlands) B.V., a world leader in high-throughput deposition systems and processes. The tool uses a multi-step, Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) process to produce Amprius’ silicon nanowire anodes. Amprius will unveil its new manufacturing tool to a select group of industry partners on 29 June 2016, at a Meyer Burger facility in the Netherlands.

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ORNL team develops laser process for lower cost, more robust joining of carbon fiber and aluminum

May 20, 2016

Researchers led by a team from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have developed a new laser process that could make joining carbon fiber composites and aluminum for lightweight cars and other multi-material high-end products less expensive—as well as making the joints more robust.

The process would replace the practice of preparing the surface of the materials by hand using abrasive pads, grit blasting and environmentally harmful solvents. Using a laser to remove layers of material from surfaces prior to bonding improves the performance of the joints and provides a path toward automation for high-volume use.

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Max Planck, MIT researchers develop new strategy for high-entropy alloys; overcoming the strength/ductility tradeoff

May 19, 2016

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Dusseldorf, Germany, and MIT have developed a novel strategy to design nanostructured, bulk high-entropy alloys (HEAs) (earlier post) with multiple compositionally equivalent high-entropy phases. The new approach is described in a paper this week in the journal Nature.

The result, says C. Cem Tasan, the Thomas B. King Career Development Professor of Metallurgy in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, also challenges the conventional wisdom that improving the strength of a metal alloy is always a tradeoff that results in a loss of ductility.

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Volkswagen takes stake in German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI); autonomous driving and the digital factory

May 14, 2016

Volkswagen is taking a stake in the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI), the world’s largest non-profit scientific institution specializing in artificial intelligence (AI). By acquiring participating in DFKI, the Volkswagen Group is reinforcing its research activities in the field of future-oriented digital technologies.

In addition to research in artificial intelligence, DFKI specializes in the fields of robotics, Industry 4.0 and driver assistance systems. In a joint project, Volkswagen and DFKI have started further to develop the software framework ROCK (Robotics Construction Kit) to allow direct, close cooperation between human beings and robots. The system was presented in a near-production scenario at the Volkswagen AG IT Symposium 2016.

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ORNL exclusively licenses plasma processing technology for carbon fiber production to RMX Technologies; 75% less energy, 20% lower cost

May 13, 2016

RMX Technologies and the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have signed an exclusive licensing agreement for a new technology that significantly reduces the time and energy needed in the production of carbon fiber. Combing these benefits with a low-cost precursor currently in development, the result can be a carbon fiber product that is 40% less expensive to manufacture than current commercial products.

The ORNL/RMX plasma processing technology is a new approach to the oxidation stage of carbon fiber production in which polymer materials are oxidized (or stabilized) before carbonization. During oxidation, the thermoplastic precursor is converted to a thermoset material that can no longer be melted. Oxidation is the most time-consuming phase of the multistep carbon fiber conversion process.

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Hemming of thin-gauge AHSS achieves 30% weight savings

May 12, 2016

The Auto/Steel Partnership (announced that the Hemming of Thin Gauge Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) project achieved a 30% weight savings using thinner gauge AHSS for automotive closure panels.

Hemming is a forming operation which is used in the automotive industry to join two sheet metal panels together. During the process, the flange of the outer panel is bent over the inner one. It is commonly used to assemble the outer parts of a car, such as doors, hoods, trunk leads and fenders. The accuracy of the hemming operation is very important as it affects the surface appearance and thus influences surface quality

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Novelis supplying aluminum for Cadillac CT6 in N America and China

May 10, 2016

Aluminum rolling and recycling leader Novelis announced that its aluminum is used in the new 2016 Cadillac CT6 body. The new mixed material vehicle construction featured in the Cadillac CT6 represents a first of its kind for General Motors (GM) in North America and China. (Earlier post.)

In North America, Novelis’ plant in Kingston, ON will supply GM’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant in Detroit, Michigan. Novelis’ plant in Changzhou, China will supply GM’s Shanghai plant, which will produce the CT6 manufactured locally in China.

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PARC, ORNL and Ford collaborate on high-energy, high-power battery production for EVs using CoEx printing

April 28, 2016

PARC, a Xerox company, is collaborating with Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Ford Motor Company in a DOE-funded project that will use PARC’s novel CoEx printing technology (earlier post) to fabricate thick, higher energy and higher power battery electrodes with the end goal of enabling longer range and low cost electric vehicles.

The goal of the project—“Co-Extrusion (CoEx) for Cost Reduction of Advanced High-Energy-and-Power Battery Electrode Manufacturing”—is to demonstrate pilot-scale, electric vehicle (EV) pouch cells with a 20% improvement in gravimetric energy density (Wh/kg), and a 30% reduction in $/kWh costs.

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Honda introduces new automotive assembly line system: Assembly Revolution Cell Line; first implementation in Thailand

April 21, 2016

Honda Motor Co. has deployed the first mass-production automobile assembly line with a main line that incorporates a flowing cell production system. Honda has named this the Assembly Revolution Cell (ARC) Line and introduced it in Honda’s new Prachinburi Plant in Thailand that became operational in March 2016.

The newly-developed ARC Line differs significantly from a conventional line production system and was developed by incorporating flowing cell production-style production units in the main line. In production on a conventional line—the foundation of automobile production to date—each line worker (production associate) takes charge of a single process and installs parts to vehicle bodies flowing on a conveyor. In cell production, by contrast, one production associate takes charge of a broader range of production processes and installs multiple parts.

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Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg opens competence center for manufacturing technology and innovation for new production technologies

Volkswagen has opened a competence center for technology and innovation and its Wolfsburg plant. Volkswagen employees will develop and test new production technologies on-site in the center’s near-production environment.

The innovation center has six sections: digital way; human-machine interaction (HMI); material flow and material handling; body construction; assembly; and ergonomics. Going forward, experts will be able to test their developments in continuous operation for a three- to six-month period and at the same time train employees on site in how to use the new technologies.

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Ford launches 10-year project to transform Dearborn campus; sustainability in the built environment; Living Building Challenge

April 12, 2016

Ford Motor Company unveiled its plans to transform its Dearborn facilities into a modern, green and high-tech campus to foster innovation and help drive the company’s transition to an auto and a mobility company. The 10-year transformation of the company’s more than 60-year-old Dearborn facilities will colocate 30,000 employees from 70 buildings today into primarily two locations—a product campus and a world headquarters campus. More than 7.5 million square feet of work space will be rebuilt and upgraded into even more technology-enabled and connected facilities.

The transformation will integrate sustainability and innovation throughout the built environment, including a new Sustainability Showcase building on the product campus, which will aim to meet Living Building Challenge standards, the highest level of sustainability certification today. To be certified under the Challenge, projects must meet a series of ambitious performance requirements over a minimum of 12 months of continuous occupancy. Among the key criteria is that 100% of the building’s energy needs on a net annual basis must be supplied by on-site renewable energy. No combustion is allowed.

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VW reopens Transparent Factory as showcase for electric mobility and digitalization; rebuilding plant for electric and premium models

Volkswagen has reopened its Dresden Transparent Factory (Gläserne Manufaktur) as a new Volkswagen brand showcase for electromobility and digitalization; the site had closed for 10 days to carry out the necessary modifications for around 50 interactive exhibits and vehicles allowing visitors to experience future mobility first-hand.

The new exhibition is just the first step in an extensive rebuild of the Transparent Factory, which opened in 2001 specifically to manufacture the Phaeton. (Volkswagen ceased production of the Phaeton in March.) One of the exhibition highlights is a half-hour test drive with electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Volkswagen’s concept four-door Sport Coupé Concept GTE (earlier post) plug-in hybrid sports car is also showcased.

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SSAB, LKAB and Vattenfall launch long-term initiative for CO2-free ironmaking for steel production

April 04, 2016

Swedish-Finnish steel company SSAB, mining company LKAB and power company Vattenfall have launched an initiative to develop a steel production process that emits water rather than carbon dioxide.

The aim of the HYBRIT (Hydrogen Breakthrough Ironmaking Technology) project is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from ironmaking to zero by eliminating the need to use fossil fuel for iron ore reduction. The idea is to replace the blast furnaces with an alternative process, using hydrogen produced from “clean” electricity.

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ORNL seeking US manufacturers to license new carbon fiber process; reduces cost up to 50% and energy up to 60%

March 24, 2016

Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have demonstrated a production method they estimate will reduce the cost of carbon fiber as much as 50% and the energy used in its production by more than 60%. After extensive analysis and successful prototyping by industrial partners, ORNL is making the new process available for licensing.

A detailed analysis of the new process compared to a published baseline for conventional carbon fiber production examined manufacturing cost of nine major process steps, starting with the precursor and pretreatment and finishing with surface treatment, sizing, winding, inspection and shipping. The analysis revealed the new process yields significant reductions in materials, capital and labor costs resulting in an overall manufacturing cost reduction of up to 50%. Details of the cost analysis will be shared with the prospective licensees.

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Saarbrücken engineers developing networked self-analyzing electric motors

March 23, 2016

Engineers from Saarland University are developing intelligent motor systems that function without the need for additional sensors. By essentially transforming the motor itself into a sensor, the team led by Professor Matthias Nienhaus is creating smart motors that can tell whether they are still running smoothly, can communicate and interact with other motors and can be efficiently controlled.

By using data collected from the motor while it is operating, the researchers are able to calculate quantities that in other systems would need to be measured by additional sensors. Further, they are teaching the drive how to make use of this knowledge.

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Series production of next-generation Acura NSX hybrid supercar begins in April at new Performance Manufacturing Center

March 17, 2016

Acura’s Performance Manufacturing Center (PMC) will begin series production of the next-generation Acura NSX hybrid supercar (earlier post) in late April, with customer deliveries to commence thereafter.

The PMC is constructing the Acura supercar entirely in-house and, like the NSX itself, is a clean-sheet development—a manufacturing facility designed around the NSX’s unique Multi-Material Body and aluminum-intensive space-frame design and optimized for low-volume production of high-performance specialty vehicles.

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America Makes and ANSI launch additive manufacturing standardization collaborative

March 16, 2016

America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) have launched the America Makes & ANSI Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative (AMSC). The purpose of the AMSC will be to coordinate and accelerate the development of industry-wide additive manufacturing standards and specifications consistent with stakeholder needs and thereby facilitate the growth of the additive manufacturing industry. Participation is open to any interested person.

Established in 2012 as the flagship Institute for the National Network of Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) infrastructure, America Makes is the nation’s leading and collaborative partner in additive manufacturing and 3D printing technology research, discovery, creation, and innovation. It is driven by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining (NCDMM).

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Euro Parliament report analyzes Industry 4.0 potential

March 15, 2016

The European Parliament has release an analysis of the Industry 4.0 Initiative—the digitalization of production processes based on devices autonomously communicating with each other along the value chain. It considers the potential of the initiative and business paradigm changes and impacts of this transformation.

The study assesses the rationale for public intervention and outlines measures that could be adopted to increase the gains and limit the threats from Industry 4.0.

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Audi develops new generation of tools; bionic shapes and composite construction for material, weight and energy savings

March 11, 2016

Audi Toolmaking has developed a new, highly efficient generation of tools that is up to 20% lighter and 10% more stable than the previous generation. This makes the processing of sheet metal in the presses faster and more precise.The new tools are already being used in the press shop in Ingolstadt.

The new tools are up to eight tons lighter than conventional tools, which are made completely of cast iron and weigh up to 45 tons. The lower weight is primarily due to an ideal mix and distribution of the materials cast iron, aluminum and plastics. The composite construction concept is a feature of Audi’s lightweight construction in automobile engineering and is now used also in toolmaking.

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BMW Group developing self-driving robots for supply logistics; recycled BMW i3 batteries for power

March 06, 2016

BMW is developing and testing a self-driving robot at the BMW Group’s Innovation Park in Wackersdorf. This center is the logistics hub for material management and just-in-sequence supply to BMW Group sites in ten different countries. Wackersdorf is also home to the cockpit production for several plants.

The self-driving robot maneuvers underneath roller containers with parts, picks them up and moves them through the logistics hall. Flanked by radio transmitters and equipped with a digital map, it drives independently to the destination of the goods.

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Toho Tenax develops integrated production system for CFRP; projects in automotive

March 02, 2016

Toho Tenax Europe GmbH (TTE), the German subsidiary of Toho Tenax, itself the core company of the Teijin Group’s carbon fibers and composites business, has developed an integrated production system for carbon fiber-reinforced plastic (CFRP) that enables manufactured composite parts to be optimized for required shapes and properties.

The new production system uses a high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM) process and TTE’s own one-step carbon fiber to part technology, called Part via Preform (PvP), which it developed in 2014. One European automaker has already adopted this system and other projects are under way in the automotive industry.

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TriboForm Engineering launches tribology simulation software for metal-forming processes; Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Škoda launch customers

February 28, 2016

TriboForm Engineering, a spin-out from the University of Twente in The Netherlands, introduced its TriboForm software at Triboforum 2016, a triennial industry conference. Tribology is a branch of mechanical engineering that describes the contact between materials under different conditions. In metal-forming processes, tribology plays a key role through the relative motion and interaction between the applied sheet material, the lubrication and the tooling.

TriboForm is a software solution for the simulation of friction and lubrication in metal-forming processes. With unique physically-based simulation technology, TriboForm enables its users accurately to simulate friction and lubrication conditions quickly and then directly integrate the results in metal-forming simulations.

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DOE to issue $25M funding opportunity for next generation of electric machines; NGEM II

February 19, 2016

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) intends to issue, on behalf of the Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), a $25-million Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0001467) entitled “Next Generation of Electric Machines: Enabling Technologies.” EERE plans to issue the FOA around March 2016.

Through this FOA, AMO seeks to create future high impact manufacturing opportunities through the Next Generation of Electric Machines (NGEM) vision, which is a targeted development of high power density, high revolutions per minute motors and integrated power electronics. (Earlier post.) Specifically, this FOA targets the development of key technologies that will enable further efficiency enhancements and weight reductions in a cost effective way while addressing the limitations of traditionally used conductive metals and electrical steels.

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New BMW Brilliance engine plant with light metal foundry in China; high-voltage battery production to come

January 22, 2016

BMW Brilliance Automotive (BBA) opened a new engine plant with a light metal foundry in Shenyang today. The new location will produce the latest generation of the BMW TwinPower Turbo three and four-cylinder gasoline engines and forms part of the BBA production network based in Shenyang in Northeastern China.

In addition to combustion engines, the new engine plant will also produce high-voltage batteries for future Plug-in Hybrid models. As with engine assembly, this project will entail close cooperation between BBA and the BMW Group to ensure knowledge transfer from high-voltage battery production in Germany.

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Audi Brussels to produce exclusively e-tron quattro SUV, battery packs; A1 production moving to Spain

January 20, 2016

As of 2018, Audi Brussels will produce exclusively the commercial version of Audi’s e-tron quattro battery-electric SUV (earlier post). The plant will also produce its own battery packs. The site in Belgium will thus become a key plant for electric mobility at the Volkswagen Group.

Audi will transfer production of the Audi A1 from Brussels to Martorell in Spain; in 2014, Audi Brussels produced 115,378 Audi A1 models. The Audi Q3, currently produced in Spain, will be built in Győr (Hungary) in the future. The model rotation will benefit all the sites of its global production network, Audi Chairman Rupert Stadler said.

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HeidelbergCement and Joule partnering to explore carbon-neutral fuel application in cement manufacturing

December 14, 2015

Joule, a pioneer in the production of liquid fuels from recycled CO2, and HeidelbergCement, a German multinational building material company, are partnering to explore application of Joule’s technology to mitigate carbon emissions in cement manufacturing. Cement manufacturing is highly energy and emissions intensive, currently contributing about 6% of global CO2 (Zhang et al. 2014).

As part of the agreement, emissions (or offtake gas) from various HeidelbergCement factories could provide Joule with the waste CO2 required to feed its advanced Helioculture platform that effectively recycles CO2 back into fuel.

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KIT researchers developing low-pressure carbonitriding process for hardening steel with methylamine; applications in downsized engines

November 23, 2015

A team at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) is developing a new low-pressure process for hardening steel using methylamine. The new low-pressure carbonitriding (enriching low-alloy steels with carbon and nitrogen) process saves time and process gas. Steels hardened in this way are suited for use in components subjected to high mechanical and thermal loads in downsized, energy-efficient and low-emission engines of the future.

The KIT researchers, along with their colleagues at Bosch, presented the process in a recent paper published in HTM - Journal of Heat Treatment and Materials.

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KAIST researchers develop mechanical nanoscale fasteners for fuel cell membranes; lower cost, higher efficiency, easily manufactured

November 09, 2015

Scientists at KAIST have developed a physical interlocking interface that can tightly bind a sulfonated poly(arylene ether sulfone) (SPAES) membrane and a Nafion catalyst layer in PEM fuel cells, paving the way for lower-cost, higher-efficiency and more easily manufactured proton exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells. They reported on their work in a recent paper in the journal Advanced Materials.

To generate electricity, PEM fuel cells rely on two chemical compartments separated by a permeable catalyst membrane. This membrane acts as an electrolyte; a negative electrode is bonded to one side of the membrane and a positive electrode is bonded to the other. The electrolyte membrane is often based on a polymer of perfluorosulfonic acid. Due to its high cost, however, a less expensive hydrocarbon-based electrolyte membrane has attracted interest in this technology sector.

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Mazda’s new Aqua-tech Paint System receives Prime Minister’s Award; lower VOCs than Three Layer Wet

Mazda Motor Corporation’s new paint system—the Aqua-tech Paint System—has received the Prime Minister’s Award (Manufacturing and Production Process Category) at the 6th Monodzukuri Nippon Grand Award ceremony. The Aqua-tech Paint System reduces emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) compared to Mazda’s previous oil-based paint systems without increasing energy consumption (and associated CO2 emissions).

Mazda had already achieved world-class low CO2 emission levels with the implementation of the Three Layer Wet Paint System. The company’s follow-on goal was to further reduce volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to world-class levels.

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Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding technique from OSU uses 80% less energy and delivers bonds 50% stronger; joining dissimilar materials

October 30, 2015

Engineers at The Ohio State University have developed a new welding technique—Vaporized Foil Actuator Welding (VFAW)—that consumes 80% less energy than a common welding technique, yet creates bonds that are 50% stronger. The new technique could have a significant impact on the auto industry, which is poised to offer new cars which combine traditional heavy steel parts with lighter, alternative metals to reduce vehicle weight.

Glenn Daehn, professor of materials science and engineering at Ohio State, who helped develop the new technique, explained the new process in a keynote address at the recent Materials Science & Technology 2015 meeting. The Materials Science & Engineering annual meeting is organized by the American Ceramic Society, the Association for Iron & Steel Technology, ASM International, and the Minerals, Metals & Materials Society.

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Audi using Alstom H3 plug-in hybrid shunting locomotive at Ingolstadt

Audi has begun using a new 1,000 horsepower plug-in hybrid shunting locomotive manufactured by Alstom in daily operations at the Audi plant in Ingolstadt, Germany. The new locomotive runs without any emissions inside the plant buildings and can operate for up to two hours at a time in purely electric mode. Its battery is plugged in during breaks for recharging with CO2‑free electricity, or is supported while in motion by a diesel engine.

The three-axle Alstom H3 hybrid locomotive is significantly quieter than its conventional counterparts, and can deliver up to a 50% reduction in diesel fuel use, with a concomitant reduction in CO2emissions. This means that the plug‑in‑hybrid locomotive emits up to 60 tons less CO2 each year. For the Ingolstadt plant, this is another stage on the way to the CO2‑neutral factory.

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Acura provides more technical detail on NSX sports hybrid AWD powertrain, body

October 28, 2015

Acura unveiled the production model of the next-generation NSX at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) this past January (earlier post), and now has provided more technical detail on the high-performance hybrid sports car and its new Sport Hybrid-AWD power unit.

At the core of this new hybrid power unit is a bespoke, mid-mounted twin-turbocharged, 75-degree 3.5-liter DOHC V6 engine with dry sump lubrication, mated to an all-new 9-speed dual clutch transmission (9DCT) and Direct-Drive Motor. This is augmented by the front Twin Motor Unit (TMU) driving the front wheels. The NSX Sport Hybrid power unit offers exceptional horsepower and torque with a broad powerband for tremendous throttle response and acceleration. Total system peak output is estimated at 573 horsepower—500 horsepower from the gasoline engine and 73 horsepower from the front TMU.

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