[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.]
UK study finds low carbon policy has bolstered UK automotive sector, but trucks neglected and biofuels stalled
July 17, 2014
|Value of low carbon investments by year and cumulative. Click to enlarge.|
A major new report published at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership’s Annual Conference shows the UK automotive sector has been revitalized by consistently applied policy centered on cutting carbon.
Carried out for LowCVP by E4tech and the Centre for Automotive Industry Research at Cardiff Business School, the study was conducted between March and June 2014. The broad industry survey, supplemented by in-depth interviews with senior executives showed that a consistent and sustained policy approach can produce both green results and growth. The link between consistently applied policy and a win-win in terms of investment and emissions performance was validated by the survey involving more than 120 senior industry and stakeholder respondents.
Volkswagen to produce new CrossBlue-based midsize SUV in Chattanooga; $900M investment
July 14, 2014
|The new mid-size SUV is based on the CrossBlue concept. Click to enlarge.|
The Board of Directors of Volkswagen Group of America has decided to award the production of its new midsize SUV to the Chattanooga plant in Tennessee. The Group will be investing a total of approximately US$900 million (€643 million) in the production of the newly developed, seven-passenger SUV, creating 2,000 additional jobs in the US. About US$600 million (€432 million) will be invested in Tennessee.
The midsize SUV, which is based on the MQB-based CrossBlue plug-in hybrid concept vehicle, was developed especially for the North American market. The CrossBlue made its global debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Earlier post.)
Researchers demonstrate use of 3D printing to produce and operate light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers
July 05, 2014
A team at the University of Glasgow has demonstrated the production and operation of a PEM electrolyzer constructed from silver-coated 3D-printed components fabricated from polypropylene. The use of 3D printing allows construction of light-weight, low-cost electrolyzers and the rapid prototyping of flow field design.
In a paper accepted by the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science, the researchers report data showing that performance is excellent for a first-generation device in terms of overall efficiency, internal resistances and current-voltage response. This development opens the door to the fabrication of light-weight and inexpensive electrolyzers as well as related electrochemical devices such as flow batteries and fuel cells, they suggested.
Renault-Nissan Alliance posts record €2.9B in synergies in 2013 ahead of launch of first common module family vehicles; targeting €4.3B in 2016
July 02, 2014
|The Common Module Family represents a new approach to engineering for the Renault/Nissan Alliance. Click to enlarge.|
The Renault-Nissan Alliance posted record synergies of €2.87 billion (US$3.9B) in 2013, up from €2.69 billion (US$3.7 billion) in the previous year. Purchasing, powertrain and vehicle engineering remained the biggest contributors as the Alliance geared up for the launch of its first Common Module Family (CMF) vehicles. (Earlier post.)
Purchasing, which is jointly managed by Renault-Nissan Purchasing Organization (RNPO), generated €1.036 billion (US$1.4 billion) in synergies. Vehicle engineering, which relates to common platforms and components, accounted for €714 million (US$975 million) . The co-development and exchange of powertrains accounted for €525 million (US$717 million.
Pilot at BMW Munich plant evaluating use in vehicle assembly of custom orthotic devices produced by 3D printing
A pilot project in BMW’s Munich vehicle assembly plan is exploring the benefits of a new and innovative ergonomic tool—a flexible finger cot, which protects workers against excess strains on the thumb joints while carrying out certain assembly activities. The project is part of a dissertation in cooperation with the Department of Ergonomics at the Technical University of Munich.
Each of the flexible assembly aids is a unique piece, customized to the match the form and size of a worker’s hand. The BMW Group makes these orthotic devices in-house, using additive production procedures—i.e., “3D printing”.
LLNL/MIT team creates ultralight, ultrastiff metamaterials; possible applications for automotive and aerospace
June 20, 2014
Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed materials with the same weight and density as aerogel (“frozen smoke”) but with 10,000 times more stiffness using additive micro-manufacturing processes. The research team’s findings are published in an article in the journal Science.
The micro-architected metamaterials maintain a nearly constant stiffness per unit mass density, even at ultralow density. This performance derives from a network of nearly isotropic microscale unit cells with high structural connectivity and nanoscale features, the structural members of which are designed to carry loads in tension or compression, the researchers said. Materials with these properties could someday be used to develop parts and components for aircraft, automobiles and space vehicles.
New robotic friction stir welding method for mixed materials; potential application for battery integration
June 11, 2014
|New friction stir welding tool also functions as a temperature sensor for improved quality. Click to enlarge.|
Researchers at University West in Trollhättan have addressed two drawbacks to the robotic friction stir welding (FSW) joining process for mixed materials—path accuracy and temperature—with the development of a deflection model and integral temperature controller.
Car manufacturers are increasingly looking to a hybrid or mixed materials design, in which a combination of different materials such as steel and aluminium are joined, for weight reductions in their vehicles. With classic welding methods, joining of dissimilar materials has not been possible. With friction stir welding (FSW), on the other hand, high quality dissimilar joints can be obtained. (Earlier post.) The use of industrial robots also allows FSW of materials along complex joint lines.
Ducker: automotive aluminum content to hit explosive growth from 2015 to 2025; 50 years of uninterrupted growth “guaranteed”
June 10, 2014
|NA aluminum sheet demand for auto body and closure parts. Click to enlarge.|
By 2025, more than 75% of all new pickup trucks produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied, according to a survey of automakers conducted by global consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide and commissioned by The Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG). The study surveyed all major automakers and forecasts that Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler will become the biggest users of aluminum sheet in the next decade.
It also forecasts that the number of vehicles with complete aluminum body structures will reach 18% of North American production, from less than 1% today. Vehicle segments revealed as emerging aluminum content leaders are pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles (SUVs) and both mid-sized and full-size sedans.
New Ford Transit debuts with new two-wet monocoat paint technology; improved durability and sustainability
May 27, 2014
|New two-wet monocoat paint process. Click to enlarge.|
Ford began production of the North American Transit at Kansas City Assembly Plant on 30 April, and vans will be available in US and Canada this summer. Transit vehicles built in Kansas City are the first to use a new two-wet monocoat paint process developed by Ford and its paint suppliers. The technology results in more durable paint, uses less energy and water, and reduces carbon dioxide and particulate emissions compared with conventional paint processes.
The new paint was subjected to testing simulating typical conditions the vehicle will see over 10 year—e.g., resistance to chipping and scratching, pollutants and sun exposure. Data from preliminary advanced weathering testing indicates that paint applied with the new two-wet technology will retain 90% of its gloss at four years in service compared to 1% gloss retention for paint applied using a conventional monocoat process.
GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly expands; building new battery system for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV
May 14, 2014
|General Motors Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant worker Tina Oaks attaches wiring harnesses on a Spark EV battery pack. Click to enlarge.|
General Motors will bring all its electric vehicle battery pack building capabilities in-house with production of battery systems for the 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV at its expanded battery assembly plant in Brownstown, Mich.
A newly designed battery system features an overall storage capacity of 19 kWh and uses 192 lithium ion cells. The cells are produced at LG Chem’s plant in Holland, Mich. The battery system weight of 474 lbs (215 kg)—86 pounds (39 kg) lighter than the system in the 2014 Spark EV. The Spark EV battery is built on a dedicated production line at Brownstown, which also manufactures complete battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR.
Magnesium alloy VSC Machine successfully begins trial operation at GM China Advanced Technical Center
April 04, 2014
|Magnesium alloy VSC machine. Click to enlarge.|
The GM China Advanced Technical Center (ATC) in Shanghai announced the operation of its magnesium alloy Vertical Squeeze Casting (VSC) machine—the first designed for developing next-generation magnesium castings. GM said that this achievement marks a breakthrough in its lightweight materials research.
Squeeze casting is a process in which molten metal is introduced to casting cavities with minimum turbulence and then solidifies under very high pressure (typically above 100 MPa) within closed dies. The absence of turbulent metal flow, aided by the high applied pressure, can suppress gas porosity, notes Ohio State University Professor Alan Luo in a 2013 review of magnesium casting technologies.
3-year, $75.7M eRamp power electronics research project launches at Infineon
April 02, 2014
The three-year research project “eRamp”, intended to strengthen and expand Germany and Europe as centers of expertise for the manufacture of power electronics, launched at Infineon Technologies in Dresden. Twenty-six research partners from six countries are participating. Infineon, a global market leader in power semiconductors, is leading the €55-million (US$75.7-million) project.
Power electronics—the electronic components and their power semiconductors—help keep the loss of electrical energy as low as possible and help minimize power consumption in a wide variety of applications, including hybrid and electric drive systems. eRamp research activities will focus on the rapid introduction of new production technologies and further exploration of chip packaging technologies for power semiconductors.
President Obama announces two new public-private manufacturing innovation institutes; new manufacturing innovation institute competition
February 25, 2014
President Obama announced two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Department of Defense supported by a $140-million Federal commitment combined with more than $140 million in non-federal resources: (1) a Detroit-area-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities, with a focus on lightweight and modern metals manufacturing; and (2) a Chicago-headquartered consortium of businesses and universities that will concentrate on digital manufacturing and design technologies.
Obama also launched a competition for a new manufacturing innovation institute to build US strength in manufacturing advanced composites, the first of four new competitions to be launched this year.
Honda begins 2015 Fit production at new plant in Mexico; plant designed exclusively for subcompacts
February 23, 2014
Honda continued the expansion of its manufacturing operations in North America with the production start of the redesigned 2015 Honda Fit at a new, automobile plant of Honda de Mexico, S.A. de C.V. (HDM). The start-up of the Celaya Plant increases Honda’s annual automobile production capacity in North America to approximately 1.92 million units. In 2013, more than 90% of the Honda and Acura automobiles sold in the US were produced in North America; this is expected to exceed 95% when the Celaya plant reaches full capacity.
Located in Celaya, Guanajuato, the US$800-million plant began production less than two years after construction started in early 2012, and will employ 3,200 associates with an annual capacity of 200,000 vehicles and engines when it reaches full production later this year. In addition to the 2015 Honda Fit, the plant will begin production late this year of an all-new compact SUV.
IHS Automotive forecasts global production of plug-in vehicles to rise by 67% this year
February 04, 2014
|Global electric vehicle production forecast for 2014. Source: IHS Automotive. Click to enlarge.|
Driven by tighter emission standards in Europe, worldwide production of plug-in electric vehicles(PEVs)—including both battery-electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) models—will increase by 67% this year, according to IHS Automotive, driven by Polk. The jump in the PEV market this year contrasts with an expected 3.6% rise in global manufacturing of all motor vehicles expected in 2014.
Total production of PEVs is projected to rise to more than 403,000 this year, up from slightly more than 242,000 in 2013. Growth will accelerate sharply from the 44% increase in 2013, based on data from the new IHS Automotive Hybrid-EV Portal. In December 2013, IHS projected total global automotive sales in 2014 of 85 million, roughly resulting in an expected approximate 0.5% share for PEVs in the global market this year.
DOE to award up to $12M for technologies to produce renewable carbon fiber from biomass
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award (DE-FOA-0000996) up to $12 million in funding to advance the development of a cost-competitive pathway to produce high-performance carbon fiber for vehicle lightweighting from renewable non-food biomass. Reducing a vehicle’s weight by just 10% can improve fuel economy by 6% to 8%.
Carbon fiber composites are lightweight, yet strong, materials that can greatly improve vehicle fuel efficiency when incorporated into structural and non-structural components. Carbon fibers are polymers that are typically made from petroleum and natural gas feedstocks (propylene and ammonia, respectively) that react to form acrylonitrile (ACN) which is then polymerized and spun into polyacrylonitrile (PAN).
Constellium and UACJ plan JV in US to produce Body-in-White aluminium sheet for the automotive industry
January 24, 2014
Constellium N.V, a global aluminum products company formerly known as Alcan Engineered Products and headquartered in Amsterdam, and UACJ Corporation (UACJ), a Japan-based global aluminum manufacturer, are joining forces with a view to supply and market aluminum Body-in-White sheet to the North American automotive industry. To achieve this goal, Constellium and UACJ, through Tri-Arrows Aluminum Inc. (TAA), (UACJ’s subsidiary with Sumitomo Corporation and Itochu Group), intend to create a joint venture company in the United States, as an equal partnership, to serve the North American market.
The JV is expected to include a continuous heat treatment and conversion line with an initial target capacity of 100,000 metric tons supplied by cold rolled coils from both partners’ rolling mills. The planned facility is designed to allow for expansion beyond 100,000 tons. The total joint investment by both parties is expected to amount to approximately $150 million.
Study first to quantify amount of US pollution resulting from Chinese manufacturing for exports
January 21, 2014
|Average annual percentage of black carbon pollution related to Chinese exports. Credit: Lin et al. Click to enlarge.|
Chinese air pollution blowing across the Pacific Ocean is often caused by the manufacturing of goods there for export to the US and Europe, according to findings of a new study to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
China is responsible for only a small percentage of the annual pollution in the US, but powerful global winds known as “westerlies” can push airborne chemicals across the ocean in days, particularly during the spring, causing dangerous spikes in contaminants. Dust, ozone and carbon can accumulate in valleys and basins in California and other Western states.
President Obama announces new $140M public-private manufacturing innovation institute focused on power electronics
January 16, 2014
President Obama announced the selection of a consortium of businesses and universities, led by North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next-generation power electronics. (Earlier post.)
More specifically, the Next Generation Power Electronics Institute is focused on making wide bandgap (WBG) semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics in the next five years. Compared to silicon-based technologies, wide bandgap semiconductors can operate at higher temperatures and have greater durability and reliability at higher voltages and frequencies—ultimately achieving higher performance while using less electricity.
CAR report quantifies automotive’s position as a leading high-tech industry
January 08, 2014
|Percentage of Global R&D Spending by Industry, 2013. Source: Booz & Company “Global Innovation”; Battelle R&D Magazine; Center for Automotive Research 2012. Click to enlarge.|
A newly-released report by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) concludes that the automotive industry is not only “high-tech,” it is frequently a leader in technological developments and applications. The report, supported by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, measures the technological nature of today’s auto industry and compares it to other sectors of the economy often viewed as technologically advanced.
The report authors acknowledge the difficulty of defining “high-tech” in an ever-changing economic environment. After reviewing of the works of several researchers and government agencies, CAR developed a working definition to differentiate high-tech industries from other sectors. Broadly, high-tech industries generally have the following characteristics:
SMDI design study produces twist beam concept that reduces mass ~30% relative to baseline assembly
December 06, 2013
|Twist beam assembly mass comparison. Click to enlarge.|
Results of a new design study for a lightweight steel proof-of-concept twist beam (used in suspensions) by the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) Automotive Applications Council indicate that the preferred U-Beam Design based on 22MnB5 tubular construction with DP780 and SPFH540 sheet achieves a 30.0% mass reduction relative to the baseline assembly, at a 12–15% premium in manufacturing cost at production volumes of 30,000 to 250,000 vehicles per year, respectively.
An S-Beam Design based on 22MnB5 sheet, DP780 tube and HSLA550 materials was predicted to have a 14.9% mass reduction relative to the baseline assembly. The objective of the study was to develop a twist beam design achieving a 15–25% mass reduction with equivalent structural and elasto-kinematic performance relative to the baseline design at a ≤ 10% cost premium.
LanzaTech-Shougang joint venture in China earns RSB certification for waste steel mill gas to biofuel process
November 05, 2013
Beijing Shougang LanzaTech New Energy Science & Technology Co., Ltd. has earned the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials Services Foundation’s (RSB’s) sustainability certification for the joint venture’s facility that converts waste steel mill gases to sustainable biofuels. LanzTech and the Shougang Group signed the joint venture agreement in September 2011.
The facility, which utilizes LanzaTech’s waste gas fermentation technology (earlier post), is the first RSB-certified biofuel plant in China, and the first of its kind anywhere to receive this key certification for industrial carbon capture and utilization. The RSB is a global sustainability standard and certification system for biofuels and biomaterials production.
PwC’s Autofacts forecasts global light vehicle assembly to reach 81.8M units in 2013, up 3.3% from 2012
October 30, 2013
Global light vehicle assembly will reach 81.8 million units in 2013, representing a 3.3% year-over-year gain, according to Autofacts, PwC’s automotive analyst group. While there has been speculation around the long-awaited recovery of the European Union (EU), 2013 is poised to mark a turning point, setting the stage for recovery in 2014. This will bring the region in sync with the recent recoveries in North America and Eastern Europe and the continued growth in developing Asia-Pacific and South America, according to the consultancy.
“Consumer demands and regulatory requirements are motivating the global automotive industry to push ahead with technological breakthroughs on a larger scale,” said Rick Hanna, PwC’s global automotive leader. “Innovation ranging from new investments in lightweight materials, advanced drivetrains and infotainment systems to fresh approaches in engaging customers, will continue to shape the industry. The automakers that effectively leverage high-tech advancements in vehicles, mobile devices and data analytics will likely gain a competitive advantage in this dynamic market.”
Canada awards $30M to 10 automotive R&D projects; from electrified powertrains to hot stamping
October 28, 2013
The Government of Canada has awarded C$30 million (US$29 million) through the Automotive Partnership Canada (APC) initiative to 10 university-industry partnerships to advance innovative automotive technologies. With a total project value of more than C$52 million (US$50 million), the funding includes some $22 million from industry and other partners.
The largest award from APC is $8,928,200 to the McMaster University-Chrysler partnership (earlier post) for the development of next generation electrified powertrains. (Earlier post.) However, the selected projects include a range of technologies from hot stamping of parts to hydrogen fuel cell stacks.
Ford expands use of near-dry machining to six plants worldwide
October 17, 2013
|Left: Wet flood machining. Right: MQL machining. Graphics: Unist Inc. Click to enlarge.|
Ford Motor Company has added its near-dry machining process—Minimum Quantity Lubrication (MQL)—to six plants globally, a number that will nearly double in the next few years.
Machining metal pieces generates friction and heat. Conventional wet machining floods the work piece with metal-working fluids, requiring large amounts of fluid to cool and lubricate the cutting tools. MQL eliminates conventional flood coolant from the machining processes, lubricating cutting tools with a fine spray of oil directed exactly when and where it is needed. MQL reduces oil mist generation; biological contamination of coolant; waste water volume; costs for capital equipment; and regulatory permitting. MQL also improves recycling and transport of coolant contaminated chips.
New manufacturing technologies deliver lighter and stiffer 2014 Corvette
October 07, 2013
|Aluminum resistance spot welding in Bowling Green. (Photo by Joe Imel for Chevrolet) Click to enlarge.|
General Motors’ $131-million investment in technology at the Bowling Green Assembly Plant, such as the first production use of a GM-patented process allowing aluminum to be spot welded to aluminum (earlier post), is producing the strongest and most precisely built Corvette in its six-decade history.
The new technologies enable more accurate and efficiently produced subassemblies, such as the frame and the components attached to it. Enhanced, laser-based three-dimensional inspection systems verify overall assembly tolerances targeted to be 25% tighter than the previous-generation Corvette.
EPA recognizes Volkswagen Chattanooga with a Green Power Leadership Award for on-site generation
September 24, 2013
|The 9.5 MW solar park at Chattanooga is owned and operated by Silicon Ranch; VW has signed a 20-year power purchase agreement. Click to enlarge.|
Volkswagen Chattanooga has received a 2013 Green Power Leadership Award from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)—the only automaker to be so recognized. The annual awards recognize the country’s leading green power users for their commitment and contribution to helping advance the development of the nation’s voluntary green power market.
Volkswagen Chattanooga was one of only four organizations nationwide to receive a Leadership Award in the category of on-site generation of green power. (The others were Apple; the County of Santa Clara, CA; and Kaiser Permanete.) The award recognizes EPA Green Power Partners who distinguish themselves using on-site renewable energy applications, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) or landfill gas. Volkswagen Chattanooga is currently generating more than 13 million kWh of green power annually from its on-site 9.5 MW solar energy system, which is enough green power to meet 12% of the organization’s electricity use. (Earlier post.)
NIST awards $7.4M in grants for additive manufacturing research
September 19, 2013
The US Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is awarding grants totaling $7.4 million to fund two research projects aimed at improving measurement and standards for the rapidly developing field of additive manufacturing (AM).
Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a group of new technologies that build up objects, usually by laying down many thin layers on top of each other. In contrast, traditional machining creates objects by cutting material away. Additive manufacturing processes face a variety of hurdles that limit their utility for high-value products and applications.
DOE awards $45M to 38 advanced transportation technology projects; $3M from the Army
September 04, 2013
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award more than $45 million to 38 new projects that accelerate the research and development of advanced vehicle technologies. Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance between the Energy Department and the Department of the Army, the Army is contributing an additional $3 million in co-funding to support projects focused on lightweighting and propulsion materials, batteries, fuels, and lubricants.
The 38 projects span five major areas: advanced lightweighting and propulsion materials; advanced batteries; power electronics; fuels and lubricants; and efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
Ultrasonic welding in the battery pack for the Cadillac ELR
August 02, 2013
GM is using ultrasonic welding in the 16.5 kWh battery pack in the new Cadillac ELR extended-range electric luxury coupe that goes on sale in North America in early 2014 (earlier post). The battery-specific welding process is a result of collaboration among GM’s Manufacturing Systems Research Lab, Advanced Propulsion Center, and Brownstown Battery Assembly plant near Detroit. GM first applied the process on the Chevrolet Volt and further refined it for ELR.
Ultrasonic welding uses specialized tools called an anvil and horn to apply high-frequency vibrations to the battery’s copper and aluminum electrodes. This introduces oscillating shear forces at the interface between two metals, causing elastoplastic deformation at the interface. This ultimately results in a structure similar to that of a diffusion weld that does not require melting-point temperatures or joining material such as adhesives, soldering or fasteners.
ZF opens passenger car transmission plant in the US; emphasis on 9-speed automatics
July 26, 2013
|Manufacturing 8-speed automatics at Gray Court. Click to enlarge.|
ZF Friedrichshafen AG has officially opened its new plant for automatic passenger car transmissions in the US. Located in South Carolina, ZF Transmissions Gray Court, LLC will produce about 1.2 million transmissions at this plant annually; this includes 400,000 8-speed and 800,000 9-speed automatic transmissions (earlier post). The new plant expands the existing capacities at the Saarbrücken location to produce 8-speed automatic transmissions.
So far, ZF has invested around €300 million (US$399 million) in building the new location, which is around 130 kilometers (81 miles) north-west of Columbia. A total of approx. €450 million (US$598 million) is planned for investment into the new location—the largest single investment in the almost century-long history of ZF, emphasized Dr. Konstantin Sauer, ZF Board Member responsible for finance and the North American region.
Renault-Nissan jointly developing new vehicle program for growth markets; CMF-A for affordability
July 17, 2013
CEO and Chairman Carlos Ghosn confirmed that the Renault-Nissan Alliance is developing all-new vehicles to meet the specific demands of new car buyers in the world’s fastest growing economies.
The announcement marks the first all-new program developed from the ground up by Renault SAS and Nissan Motor Co., Ltd., teams working side by side from inception. The program, internally named CMF-A, covers the most affordable category of cars in the Common Module Family (CMF, earlier post), Renault-Nissan’s modular system of vehicle architecture. Development work on CMF-A began last year at the Renault Nissan Technology Business Centre, a Chennai, India-based engineering facility.