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Weight reduction

[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.]

Mercedes-Benz wins MATERIALICA awards for diesel passenger car steel pistons and CFRP struts

October 25, 2014

Mercedes-Benz received two MATERIALICA Design and Technology Awards at the MATERIALICA 2014 trade fair for materials applications, surface technology and product engineering in Munich. The first was for the new steel pistons for diesel engines (earlier post), the second for high-strength carbon-fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) struts.

The MATERIALICA Award 2014 comprised five categories: Material; Surface & Technology; Product; CO2 Efficiency; and Student. The MATERIALICA Design + Technology Award focuses on product and technological developments in all sectors which implement a successful bundling of competencies.

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Visio.M partners present new lightweight EV; 13.5 kWh pack delivers ~100 mile range

October 20, 2014

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Visio.M EV. Click to enlarge.

The academic and industry partners in the Visio.M consortium (earlier post) are showcasing their new lightweight urban electric vehicle at eCarTec in Munich. The 2.5-year project was funded under the priority program “Key Technologies for Electric Mobility - STROM” of the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) with a total budget of €10.8 million (US$13.7 million).

The Visio.M has a range of around 160 kilometers (99 miles) and can accommodate two people with luggage. With only a 15 kW motor, the vehicle reaches a maximum speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). The electric motor in Visio.M draws its power from a lithium-ion battery pack behind the seats, which consists of consumer cells and provides a capacity of 13.5 kWh.

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Industry report says steel can deliver weight savings to meet CAFE targets; aluminum growth in LDVs to peak around 2018

October 06, 2014

Steel can easily deliver the weight savings required to meet federally mandated fuel economy targets for most vehicles, according to a new 300-page analysis by the steel-industry information service World Steel Dynamics: “AutoBody Warfare: Aluminum Attack.” The report, based on WSD’s independent consultation with steel, aluminum and automotive experts, is formally being presented to steel executives today at the worldsteel Annual Conference in Moscow.

The report, say the authors, comes in the context of the “high-stakes contest” between the world’s leading steel and aluminum companies instigated by the rise in the US Government’s CAFE standards. Aluminum companies are in an “ebullient mood”, WSD says, due in part to the aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 (earlier post) and an Aluminum Association report, authored by the Ducker Worldwide consulting group, forecasting that by 2025 three-in-four pickup trucks will have an all-aluminum body. (Earlier post.)

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Aleris to invest $350M to upgrade Kentucky aluminum rolling mill for anticipated growth in automotive demand

September 25, 2014

Aleris will invest $350 million to upgrade capabilities at its aluminum rolling mill in Lewisport, Kentucky. The investment positions Aleris to meet anticipated significant growth in North American automotive demand as the industry pursues broader aluminum use for the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Aleris is currently a leading supplier to the European premium auto industry, which has led the transition to aluminum driven by tighter emissions standards.

The company expects to begin construction on the project this fall, with a goal of shipping automotive body sheet material to customers by early 2017. When fully operational, the new facility will allow for the production of 480 million pounds of aluminum auto body sheet annually.

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Citroën unveiling Cactus AIRFLOW 2L concept at Paris: Hybrid Air powertrain and 2L/100 km

September 18, 2014

Citroën will unveil its new C4 Cactus AIRFLOW 2L concept at the Paris Motor Show. With the C4 Cactus AIRFLOW 2L concept, Citroën is demonstrating fuel consumption of 2l/100 km (118 mpg US) through the use of optimized design with a 20% improvement in aerodynamics; lower rolling resistance (Tall&Narrow) tires; efforts to use lighter parts and thus reduce overall vehicle weight by 100 kg; and the implementation of Hybrid Air technology (earlier post), which cuts fuel consumption by 30%.

The C4 Cactus AIRFLOW 2L project was conducted as part of the “2l/100 km vehicle” program set up by the Plateforme de la Filière Automobile, an industry group. The objective was to deliver practical solutions to reduce the impact of vehicle running costs, on household expenditure and to reduce the eco-footprint of car travel.

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MAHLE NanoNapier Steel piston ring helps reduce weight and improve quality

MAHLE has developed a piston ring with new technology that offers engine manufacturers improvements in weight, quality and overall value. MAHLE’s new “second” piston ring uses chrome-silicon steel to replace cast iron traditionally used for the second of three rings found on gasoline-powered spark-ignition engines. MAHLE’s thinner, lighter-weight steel-wire design for the second ring is based on the company’s own NanoNapier Steel (NNS) technology for which a patent is pending.

Conventionally, there are two types of piston rings: compression and oil control. A piston assembly includes one or more compression rings that generate a seal between the outer surface of the piston and the wall of the cylinder to prevent high-pressure combustion gases and air from escaping the combustion chamber. Today’s engines have three piston rings: two compression rings: top (or first) and second and the oil control ring. The second ring is known as a Napier ring.

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ArcelorMittal develops two steel solutions to reduce weight of pickups; exploring applications in PHEVs

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company, has created two sets of steel solutions to reduce the average weight of pick-ups, following on from the award-winning launch of its S-in motion catalogue for standard, C-segment cars. ArcelorMittal has refined and extended these innovations to help meet the specific challenges facing the North American light truck market.

The first set uses currently available advanced high strength steels and press-hardenable steel grades such as Usibor 1500 and Ductibor 500 and can reduce weight by up to 174 kg (384 lbs) or 23% of the combined weight of a pick-up’s cab, box, frame and closures, compared with a modern (2014) baseline vehicle.

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Renault presents the 235 mpg EOLAB prototype; plug-in “Z.E. Hybrid”; targeting production

September 17, 2014

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EOLAB. Click to enlarge.

Renault has presented EOLAB, a new prototype which explores ways to deliver ultra-low fuel consumption. EOLAB delivers NEDC combined cycle fuel consumption of 1 liter/100 km (235 mpg US), equivalent to 22g of CO2/km. To achieve such low figures, the designers focused their efforts on three main areas: minimizing weight; leveraging aerodynamics with active systems; and using the “Z.E. Hybrid” plug-in hybrid system—the last offering all-electric trips of up to 60 km (37 miles) at speeds of up to 120 km/h (75 mph).

Conceived around a B-segment platform, the prototype incorporates around 100 new, realistic technological developments that are designed to be introduced gradually on upcoming Renault vehicles. EOLAB features materials such as magnesium and aluminium, which are extremely light and also much cheaper than titanium. Meanwhile, the notion of such a car being produced in large numbers within the next 10 years was dialed into the plan from the start.

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Johnson Controls invests in IHU-TUT project to combine aluminum and steel in laser-welded tailored tubes for seats

August 27, 2014

Johnson Controls is investing in a German automotive research project working to combine steel and aluminum in laser-welded tailored tubes for use in seats for the first time. The result could be a 10 to 20 percent reduction in weight, which would be beneficial for fuel and emissions balance.

Tailored tubes are already used to a great extent in the large series production of vehicle seats, but in this project, they consist of steel and aluminum of various wall thicknesses. As part of the research project “Hydroforming of laser-brazed tailored hybrid tubes of a steel-aluminum blend for automotive lightweight construction” (Innenhochdruckumformen laserstrahlgelöteter Tailored Hybrid Tubes aus Stahl-Aluminium-Mischverbindungen für den automobilen Leichtbau, IHU-TUT), which runs until 31 January 2016, the project partners are researching the opportunity to make use of the significant weight advantages of aluminum by combining it with steel in the hollow components.

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Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations reveals new lightweight E-type

August 12, 2014

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Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations’ new Lightweight E-type. Click to enlarge.

Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations unveiled its new Lightweight E-type—the first recreation to come from Jaguar Heritage, which operates within the Jaguar Land Rover Special Operations division. Only 6 will be built. Car Zero has been completed and, on 14 August, will be revealed at the opening reception to the Pebble Beach Automotive weekend. Jaguar announced in May 2014 that it would recreate six new Lightweights, each built by Jaguar Heritage, part of Jaguar Land Rover’s new Special Operations division.

In recreating the Lightweight, Jaguar Heritage has drawn on Jaguar’s engineering and design resources, including the company’s aluminum body technology. The specification includes an aluminum bodyshell with doors, trunklid, hardtop and hood also in aluminum. The six-cylinder XK engine mirrors the original power units, with an aluminum block, wide-angle aluminum cylinder head and dry sump lubrication.

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Frost & Sullivan sees 29% growth in dimensional metrology market in automotive by 2018 to more than $1.2B; automation, weight reduction and platforms

August 07, 2014

Rapid automation of automotive manufacturing plants, a focus on weight reduction, and vehicle platform strategies are key factors that will drive the demand for dimensional metrology solutions in the automotive industry, according to new analysis from Frost & Sullivan.

In a new report, Frost & Sullivan finds that the overall dimensional metrology market in the automotive industry earned revenue of $949.2 million in 2013 and forecasts this will grow 29% to approximately $1,225.1 million in 2018 (CAGR of 5.2%). While Frost & Sullivan expects the coordinate measuring machine (CMM) segment to account for 67.8% of the global dimensional metrology market in the automotive industry by 2018, it also expects that inline metrology (automated measurements fully integrated into a production line) will become the most desired solution for automotive applications, with advanced, fully-automated inline metrology systems powering the next-generation dimensional metrology solutions.

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Jaguar: aluminum-intensive XE will feature fuel consumption lower than 4L/100km; structure is 75% aluminum

July 29, 2014

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The aluminum body of the XE. Click to enlarge.

In the second of four technology previews leading up to the introduction of the new Jaguar XE on 8 September, Jaguar outlined its extensive use of aluminum in the new model. Designed around Jaguar’s modular vehicle architecture, the XE is the only car in the class to use an aluminum-intensive monocoque, with lightweight aluminum accounting for 75% of the structure.

The new aluminum-intensive SE will be paired with engines from the new Ingenium family of efficient diesel and gasoline engines (earlier post)—powertrains specifically designed and calibrated to complement reduced-weight vehicles. Jaguar projects that the resulting XE will achieve fuel consumption of less that 4.0 l/100 km (59 mpg US) on the NEDC combined cycle (subject to certification) and CO2 emissions of less than 100 g/km.

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Voith introducing new energy absorbers for trains made of fiber composite plastics

July 22, 2014

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Voith GFRP energy absorber: 60% weight reduction compared with standard steel absorbers. Click to enlarge.

Voith is introducing a lateral energy absorber made of glass fiber reinforced plastics (GFRP) and aluminum. Compared with standard steel absorbers a weight reduction of 60% could be achieved. This new lightweight energy absorber is part of the mutable vehicle head concept Galea, but it can just as well be integrated into other front end systems.

The crash energy systems focus on vehicle safety and efficiency, as well as ecological benefits through a reduction of CO2 emissions. Their modular design allows short replacement times and an individual vehicle design.

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SABIC’s polycarbonate rear window in Ford MMLV reduces window weight by 35%; improved thermal insulation

July 17, 2014

Among the technologies Ford incorporated into its drivable multi-material lightweight vehicle (MMLV) (earlier post) is an advanced polycarbonate (PC) glazing solution from SABIC’s Innovative Plastics business that makes possible a 35% weight reduction compared to the same window on a 2013 model year Ford Fusion production vehicle. The weight savings total 7.4 pounds (3.36 kg), even though the rear window is more than one millimeter thicker than the production glass window it replaces. The PC material has approximately half the density of glass.

The advanced PC solution used in the concept’s rear window combines LEXAN resin, a PC material characterized by its light weight, high optical clarity and impact resistance, with EXATEC E900 plasma coating for glass-like scratch and UV resistance. (The LEXAN plasma-coated windows are also used in Volkswagen’s ultra-efficient XL1 plug-in hybrid, earlier post.)

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Continental supplying first turbocharger with aluminum housing

July 15, 2014

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The water-cooled aluminum turbine housing. Click to enlarge.

Continental’s powertrain developers have launched series production of the first car turbocharger with an aluminum turbine housing. Integration of the unit in the three-cylinder, 1.5L 100 kW gasoline engine for the MINI Hatch (earlier post) has been ongoing since spring 2014.

Water-cooling enables the use of the lightweight material and thus enables a significant weight reduction by nearly 30% while simultaneously providing cost and system benefits.

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Alcoa unveils first aluminum alloy fan blade forging for jet engines; $1.1B supply agreement w/ Pratt & Whitney

July 14, 2014

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Click to enlarge.

Under a new 10-year, $1.1-billion agreement, Alcoa will supply key parts for Pratt & Whitney’s jet engines, including the forging for the first aluminum fan blade for jet engines. The forging was developed for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower engines using an advanced aluminum alloy and a proprietary manufacturing process. Also for the PurePower engines, Alcoa is developing a fan blade forging using its most advanced aluminum-lithium alloy.

Under the $1.1 billion deal, Alcoa will supply components for Pratt & Whitney’s PurePower PW1000G, V2500, GP7000 and several other regional jet and military engines. The unique Geared Turbofan architecture of the PurePower engine allows for aluminum alloys to be used in the Pratt & Whitney designed fan blades, making the engine lighter, as well as more fuel and cost efficient.

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Mercedes-Benz outlines synergies between F1 motorsport and production car engineering

July 10, 2014

Mercedes-Benz has outlined areas of actual synergies between its F1 motorsport activities with Mercedes AMG Petronas and Mercedes-Benz Cars. While there is definitely a technology transfer between race and road car engineering, said Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical) at Mercedes AMG Petronas, “it’s a more subtle process than bolting bits from one car onto another.

There are examples of direct transfer—such as the Nanoslide technology used to coat cylinder bore surfaces (earlier post)—and then there are examples of indirect transfer, such as F1 serving as a research laboratory for developing new solutions and showing the world what is possible, he noted.

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European consortium investigating graphene-based materials for lightweight cars; energy-efficient and safe vehicles

June 30, 2014

The University of Sunderland (UK), working with a consortium of five other research partners from Italy, Spain and Germany, has been selected for funding by the €1-billion (US$1.4-billion) Graphene Flagship research initiative in Europe (earlier post) for their iGCAuto proposal. The researchers will explore the properties of graphene to determine how it behaves when used to enhance advanced composite materials used in the production of cars. The other partners are Centro Ricerche FIAT (Italy); Fraunhofer ICT (Germany); Interquimica (Spain); Nanesa S.r.l. (Italy); and Delta-Tech S.p.A. (Italy).

As part of the work, a novel graphene-based polymer material will be investigated, modeled, and designed to enhance both vehicle and occupant safety while remaining very light. This material will provide benefits such as improved strength, dimensional stability, and superior durability.

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LLNL/MIT team creates ultralight, ultrastiff metamaterials; possible applications for automotive and aerospace

June 20, 2014

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The new materials designed with additive manufacturing techniques exhibit high stiffness and low density, occupying a previously unpopulated area (upper left) of the Ashby material selection chart for Young’s modulus (stiffness) vs. density. The octet truss structure recently fabricated by Livermore researchers is a stretch-dominated lattice. Source: LLNL Click to enlarge.

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.

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The technology behind Ford’s Lightweight Concept Vehicle; prospects for Mach-II with 50% mass reduction difficult

June 18, 2014

Earlier this month, Ford unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing CO2 emissions. The Ford Lightweight Concept reduces the weight of a 2013 Fusion to that of a Ford Fiesta, resulting in a nearly 25% weight reduction. (Earlier post.)

The Ford vehicle is based on the first phase (Mach-I) of work of the DOE-supported Multi-Material Lightweight Vehicles project (Award DE-EE0005574) by Vehma International (an engineering and prototype division within the Cosma International operating unit of Magna) and Ford. The $20.3-million project ($10 million from DOE, $10.3 million from Vehma/Ford) has two main objectives. First, to design and build the “Mach-I” prototype vehicle maintaining donor vehicle architectural space and using commercially available or demonstrated materials and processes while delivering a 22% reduction compared to the baseline vehicle. The result of this is reflected in the Ford concept.

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New robotic friction stir welding method for mixed materials; potential application for battery integration

June 11, 2014

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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.

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Ducker: automotive aluminum content to hit explosive growth from 2015 to 2025; 50 years of uninterrupted growth “guaranteed”

June 10, 2014

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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.

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Chrysler/McMaster lightweight materials project focusing on door side impact beam; Al and Mg casting

June 04, 2014

In October 2013, Chrysler entered a $3.9-million research project supported by the Canadian government to explore ways to leverage the weight-saving properties of aluminum and magnesium alloys for vehicle production. (Earlier post.) The primary academic partner in the project is McMaster University in Ontario, with Ryerson University and CANMET, an agency of Natural Resources Canada, as other partners in the project.

In an update on the progress of the project, Steve Logan, responsible for Advanced Lightweight Programs in Chrysler’s Materials Engineering Group, said that the team is looking at components for body and chassis, and specifically focusing on a door side impact beam.

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Ford introduces Lightweight Concept vehicle to showcase ongoing light-weighting and advanced materials work; nearly 25% weight reduction

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Ford Lightweight Concept. Click to enlarge.

Ford Motor Company unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle, which uses advanced materials to explore future weight-reduction solutions that could improve performance and fuel efficiency while reducing CO2 emissions. The Ford Lightweight Concept reduces the weight of a 2013 Fusion to that of a Ford Fiesta, resulting in a nearly 25% weight reduction.

The vehicle represents the latest phase of Ford’s research into developing sustainable technology solutions that are affordable for consumers and can be produced in large volumes across the product lineup. This research has also led to the significant weight reduction of up to 700 pounds (318 kg) in the all-new F-150 through the use of high-strength steel and aluminum. (Earlier post.)

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Ford and Samsung outline R&D efforts for next-generation non-hybrid battery technology; dual-battery systems and lightweight Li-ion

In an event in San Francisco, Ford Motor Company and Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Group, outlined several collaborative research efforts on next-generation battery technology for non-hybrid vehicles. For the near term, they have been working on a dual-battery combining a lithium-ion battery with a 12-volt lead-acid battery that could enable regenerative braking technology in non-hybrid vehicles for greater fuel savings. Ford suggested the dual battery system might go into production soon.

Ford and Samsung SDI said they are also are researching a longer-term (e.g., about 10 years) ultra-lightweight lithium-ion battery that could one day supplant lead-acid batteries. The research advances lithium-ion battery technology currently available on Ford’s electrified vehicles.

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Volkswagen provides first technical details of Gen 8 Passat, including plug-in hybrid drive; multiple new assistance systems

May 27, 2014

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Among the features of the coming eighth-generation Passat is a lighter weight design and a new 2.0L bi-turbo diesel. A plug-in hybrid drivetrain will be on offer, also, making Passat Volkswagen’s third model with a PHEV option. Click to enlarge.

Volkswagen has revealed the first technical details of the all-new Passat sedan and wagon—including the plug-in hybrid drive option—ahead of the cars’ unveiling in July, their public premiere at the Paris Motor Show in October, and their arrival in the first tranche of world markets in the fourth quarter. The eighth-generation Passat leverages advanced materials—including high-strength, hot-formed steel and aluminium in certain areas—to drop up to 85 kg (187 lbs) compared to its predecessor, helping it to claim expected fuel-efficiency improvements of up to 20%.

A highlight of the new MQB-based Passat’s range of engines is a high-performance, four-cylinder, 2.0-liter, bi-turbo diesel delivering 240 PS (237 hp, 177 kW) and 500 N·m (369 lb-ft) from 1,750 rpm. This engine will be available only with a new seven-speed DSG gearbox and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. A plug-in hybrid model will also be offered, with potential to travel 31 miles (50 km) powered by a 9.9 kWh battery pack alone power alone, and with a potential combined maximum range of around 600 miles (966 km).

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BMW and SGL to triple production capacity at Moses Lake carbon fiber plant with $200M expansion; world’s largest carbon fiber plant

May 09, 2014

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A production line for carbon fiber takes the PAN precursor through two stages (stabilization/oxidation and carbonization) and then to winding. Source: SGLACF. Click to enlarge.

Due to the high demand for carbon fiber in automotive production, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, a joint venture between the BMW Group and the SGL Group, will triple the capacity of the carbon fiber plant in Moses Lake, Washington. SGL and BMW made the announcement at the groundbreaking ceremony for the planned site expansion. The expansion will be funded by an investment of US$200 million, on top of the previously invested US$100 million.

The site expansion, scheduled to be completed by early 2015, will make the plant in Moses Lake the world’s largest carbon fiber plant. At present, the Moses Lake plant operates two production lines, exclusively for BMW i, with an annual output of approx. 3,000 tons of carbon fiber. The expansion of the site in Moses Lake will make it possible for the BMW Group to apply carbon fiber material also in other model series in the future, at competitive costs and in large quantities.

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Magnesium alloy VSC Machine successfully begins trial operation at GM China Advanced Technical Center

April 04, 2014

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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.

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GM uses lightweight, advanced materials to reduce weight on 2015 Colorado pickup

March 17, 2014

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Mass comparison, 4x4 crew cabs. Click to enlarge.

The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado uses engineering techniques and lightweight materials to create fuel-efficient pickup capability in a mass-efficient mid-size package. The 2015 Colorado 4x4 crew cab, which GM expects to be the most popular version of the new trucks, weighs 880 to 1,400 lbs (363 to 635 kg) less than a full-size truck. Chevrolet expects EPA fuel economy estimates for Colorado this summer.

This weight saving is a result of the slightly smaller overall dimensions of the Colorado, along with extensive use of lightweight materials, including high-strength steels and aluminum.

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Magna to introduce lightweight natural gas vehicle concept at Geneva; less than 49 gCO2/km

February 26, 2014

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MILA Blue. Click to enlarge.

To showcase its capabilities, global automotive supplier Magna International Inc. will showcase the MILA Blue vehicle concept at the Geneva Motor Show 2014. MILA Blue is a natural-gas powered, A-segment lightweight vehicle that produces less than 49g CO2/km.

MILA Blue, the seventh concept vehicle in the MILA family, represents a new lightweight design approach. Realized through a combination of an optimized vehicle architecture and lightweight design concepts as well as novel materials and joining technologies, MILA Blue achieves a weight savings of 300 kg (661 lbs) compared to typical current A-segment vehicles.

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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.

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DOE to award up to $12M for technologies to produce renewable carbon fiber from biomass

February 04, 2014

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).

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Ford unveils next-gen F-150; up to 700 lbs lighter, new 2.7L EcoBoost with stop-start

January 13, 2014

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2015 F-150. Click to enlarge.

Ford introduced the all-new Ford F-150 at its press conference at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The “reinvention” of this critical vehicle for Ford features an improved fully boxed ladder frame that incorporates more high-strength steel than ever, making it stronger and lighter.

Aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight. Overall, up to 700 pounds (318 kg) of weight have been saved. As one of the four engine options, the new F-150 also offers a new 2.7L EcoBoost with standard Auto Start-Stop.

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Ford brings cellulose fiber reinforced thermoplastic to 2014 Lincoln MKX

December 20, 2013

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Early version of CRP-based armrest piece under development. Source: Weyerhaeuser. Click to enlarge.

A three-year collaboration between Lincoln, Weyerhaeuser and auto parts supplier Johnson Controls has resulted in the creation of a tree-based, renewable alternative to fiberglass for use in auto parts. (Earlier post.) The 2014 Lincoln MKX features the use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene (called “THRIVE” composites by Weyerhaeuser) in the floor console armrest substrate—a structural piece located within the center console armrest.

Pieces made from CRP are roughly 6% lighter, and decrease the reliance on less-environmentally friendly fiberglass parts. The use of Cellulose Reinforced Polypropylene in the MKX, while relatively small, marks an advancement that has the potential to play a more impactful role in the future, suggested Dr. Ellen Lee, plastics research technical expert for Ford Motor Company. Ford engineers are using the company’s development and deployment of soy-based foam as an model—i.e., starting out small, then improving the material and widening the application.

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SMDI design study produces twist beam concept that reduces mass ~30% relative to baseline assembly

December 06, 2013

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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.

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Ford researchers present physics-based model of mass-induced fuel consumption for better insight into lightweighting benefits

November 25, 2013

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Schematic of fuel use in driving. Fw = fuel consumption due to mass-induced loads; Fx = fuel cons. due to aerodynamic resistance and accessory power loads; Ff = fuel cons. due to mechanical losses in the engine; Fl = fuel cons. due to mechanical losses outside of the engine; Fload = fuel cons. used to overcome vehicle loads; Floss = fuel cons. due to mechanical losses. Credit: ACS, Kim and Wallington. Click to enlarge.

A pair of researchers from Ford Motor Company’s Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department in Dearborn have developed a novel physics-based model of mass-induced fuel (MIF) consumption which can be used in vehicle life cycle assessments to provide better insight—i.e., from a more firm scientific foundation—on the potential benefits of lightweighting.

To illustrate the method, they used their model to estimate the MIF values for 2013 model year internal combustion engined using the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) fuel economy certification data. They found MIF values in the range of 0.2−0.5 L/(100 km 100 kg). As described in a paper on their work in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology, the results showed that lightweighting has the most benefit when applied to vehicles with high fuel consumption and high power.

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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.

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