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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.]

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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Volvo Car Group testing lightweight structural energy storage material applied in trunk lid and plenum cover

October 17, 2013

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A composite blend of carbon fibers and polymer resin is being developed that can store and charge more energy faster than conventional batteries can. Volvo Cars is the only car manufacturer participating in the EU-funded project, which started in early 2010. Click to enlarge.

Volvo Car Group—the only automaker participating in a 3.5-year EU-funded project developing a prototype material which can store and discharge electrical energy and which is also strong and lightweight enough to be used for car parts (earlier post)—has created two components for the testing and further development of the technology. These are a trunk lid and a plenum cover, tested within the Volvo S80.

The material combines carbon fibers and a polymer resin, creating a very advanced nanomaterial, and structural supercapacitors. The material can be moulded and formed to fit around the car’s frame in locations such as the door panels, the trunk lid and wheel bowl, substantially saving on space.

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New manufacturing technologies deliver lighter and stiffer 2014 Corvette

October 07, 2013

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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.

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Chrysler Group files S-1 for IPO; snapshot of R&D priorities; exploring a light-duty hydraulic hybrid

September 24, 2013

Chrysler Group LLC has filed a registration statement on Form S-1 with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) relating to a proposed initial public offering of common shares. Details of the offering—i.e., number of shares and price range—are yet to be determined.

However, the document not only provides a detailed look at the finances of the company, it also provides a quick recap of recent technology developments and some insight into the company’s immediate research priorities. Chrysler writes that its has “made the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles a priority to meet retail consumer preferences, comply with future regulations and as part of our commitment to sustainability.

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ORNL study finds aluminum-intensive vehicles can deliver up to 29% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to typical steel-bodied vehicle

September 20, 2013

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Lifecycle energy findings. Source: Sujit Das, ORNL. Click to enlarge.

A lifecycle study of aluminum-intensive vehicles by Sujit Das at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) found that an aluminum-intensive vehicle can achieve up to a 32% reduction in total lifecycle energy consumption, and up to a 29% reduction in CO2 emissions, compared to a typical vehicle on the road today which uses traditional and high-strength steel in the body construction.

The study, underwritten by The Aluminum Association, performed a full cradle-to-grave analysis (primary metal production; autoparts manufacturing and assembly; use; semi-fabrication material production; transportation; and end-of-life metals recycling) on three modeled vehicle types: a baseline steel vehicle; a lightweight steel vehicle (LWSV); and an aluminum intensive vehicle (AIV).

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ARPA-E selects 33 projects for $66M in awards; advanced biocatalysts for gas-to-liquids and lightweight metals

September 19, 2013

The US Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is awarding around $66 million to 33 projects under two new programs. One program, Reducing Emissions using Methanotrophic Organisms for Transportation Energy (REMOTE, earlier post), provides $34 million to 15 projects to find advanced biocatalyst technologies that can convert natural gas to liquid fuel for transportation.

The other program, Modern Electro/Thermochemical Advancements for Light-metal Systems (METALS, earlier post), provides $32 million to 18 projects to find cost-effective and energy-efficient manufacturing techniques to process and recycle metals for lightweight vehicles. The funding opportunity announcements for both programs were released earlier this year in March.

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NXP and TTTech partner on automotive Ethernet switch chip; infotainment, advanced driver assistance and OBD over single twisted-pair cable

NXP Semiconductors N.V. and TTTech signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop jointly automotive Ethernet switch solutions supporting OPEN Alliance BroadR-Reach Ethernet PHY (physical layer transceiver) technology. The switch chip will be specifically designed for the automotive market, but will also be suitable for various demanding industrial real-time applications.

The jointly developed switch chip will enable applications with unshielded twisted-pair cabling with BroadR-Reach PHY technology. BroadR-Reach Ethernet automotive technology allows multiple in-vehicle systems (such as infotainment, automated driver assistance and on board-diagnostics) simultaneously to access information over a single unshielded twisted-pair cable. By eliminating cumbersome, shielded cabling, automotive manufacturers can significantly reduce connectivity costs and cabling weight.

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Jaguar announces new advanced aluminium monocoque architecture; C-X17 concept

September 09, 2013

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The C-X17 concept is the first revealed implementation of the new iQ[Al] architecture. Click to enlarge.

Along with the unveiling of its C-X17 concept car on the eve of the Frankfurt Motor Show, Jaguar announced a new advanced aluminium monocoque architecture. The C-X17 concept sports crossover is a study to demonstrate the capabilities of this new architecture.

Codenamed iQ[Al], the architecture will form the basis for a new range of future Jaguars, the company said; the first product will be a mid-size premium C/D segment sedan on sale in 2015. This will be the first aluminium monocoque product in the segment. Using the new architecture, Jaguar expects to deliver vehicles with class-leading performance, including top speeds of more than 300 km/h (186 mph), and emissions lower than 100g of CO2 per km.

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DSM and KACO develop crankshaft cover made in bio-based EcoPaXX polyamide 410 for next-gen VW diesels

September 02, 2013

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Crankshaft cover. Click to enlarge.

Royal DSM, together with its automotive component specialist partner KACO, has developed a lightweight multi-functional crankshaft cover in EcoPaXX, DSM’s bio-based polyamide 410, for the latest generation of diesel engines developed by the Volkswagen Group. EcoPaXX, a bio-based, high-performance long-chain polyamide, is made mainly from tropical castor beans.

This EcoPaXX cover incorporates integral seals in PTFE and liquid silicon rubber (LSR), as well as various metal inserts. It will be used on Volkswagen’s new MDB modular diesel engine platform, implemented across its Audi, Seat, Škoda and VW brands.

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Integral Technologies and BASF jointly to explore North American market for automotive applications of Electriplast conductive thermoplastics

August 28, 2013

Integral Technologies, Inc. and wholly owned subsidiary ElectriPlast Corp. (earlier post) signed a Letter of Intent (LOI) with BASF Corporation jointly to explore the North American market for ElectriPlast’s conductive thermoplastics.

BASF and ElectriPlast will jointly explore the potential to utilize ElectriPlast materials as a lightweight solution for applications requiring electrical shielding, while reducing weight to help meet CAFE requirements initially targeting a broad array of automotive applications. ElectriPlast is non-corrosive and weather-resistant.

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BMW Group presents prototype of i8 plug-in hybrid; first use of new 3-cylinder engine

August 07, 2013

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Prototype BMW i8 at the track. Click to enlarge.

BMW i presented a prototype of its second production vehicle, the i8 (earlier post), at a driving event at the BMW Group’s Miramas test track in France. Following the world debut of the first production model, the battery-electric urban-focused BMW i3 (earlier post), the BMW Group’s next step will be to address the sports car segment with the plug-in hybrid BMW i8. The BMW i8 will make its world debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show next month and arrive in BMW showrooms in 2014.

Calculated using the EU test cycle for plug-in hybrid vehicles, the average fuel efficiency of the BMW i8 at model launch will be less than 2.5 liters/100 km, which equates to approximately 95 miles per US gallon, with CO2 emissions of less than 59 grams per kilometer.

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EDAG study finds NanoSteel sheet steels can achieve up to 30% weight reduction in automotive structures

August 05, 2013

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NanoSteel body-in-white using the three grades of steel. Click to enlarge.

The NanoSteel Company released the results of an automotive light-weighting study it had commissioned from EDAG, Inc., an independent engineering firm, demonstrating the potential for the company’s Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS) (earlier post) to enable a 30% reduction of weight in the BIW (body-in-white) structure of a baseline mass-market sedan.

EDAG used methodology in the study consistent with recent similar studies, including NHTSA’s “Light Weight Vehicle (LWV)” study in 2012, and WorldAutoSteel’s “Future Steel Vehicle” design in 2011. The NHTSA LWV study was a comprehensive redesign of the 2011 Honda Accord that met North American competitive targets for safety and other significant vehicle attributes while optimizing for weight savings. EDAG duplicated the criteria and methods used then have been duplicated in that study to investigate NanoSteel’s materials.

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BYU friction bit joining process bonds aluminum to cast iron

July 15, 2013

Engineers at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Utah and the University of Ulsan in South Korea have used friction bit joining (FBJ) to bond dissimilar combinations of aluminum alloy A356 and grey cast iron.

The process of friction bit joining uses a small, consumable bit to create a solid-state joint between metals. The method was invented by BYU manufacturing engineering technology professor Michael Miles and retired BYU professor Kent Kohkonen, in their collaboration with local Orem-based company MegaStir Technologies, a joint venture between Schlumberger and Advanced Metal Products. MegaStir provides both low- and high-temperature friction stir welding (FSW) systems.

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UK government and industry to invest >$1.5B in Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) for low carbon vehicles; technology roadmaps for 5 priority areas

July 12, 2013

The UK government and automotive industry are investing £500 million (US$755 million) each over the next 10 years in an Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) to research, to develop and to commercialize the technologies for the low carbon vehicles of the future. Backed by 27 companies in the sector, including supply chain companies, the commitment is expected to secure at least 30,000 jobs currently linked to producing engines and create many more in the supply chain.

The investment forms part of the report “Driving success – an industrial strategy for growth and sustainability in the UK automotive sector”, published jointly by the government and industry. It follows the recent plans for construction, aerospace and other key sectors to secure sustainable future growth in the economy.

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New ArcelorMittal lightweight car door solutions; up to 34% weight savings over existing steel doors in medium-term

June 25, 2013

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ArcelorMittal lightweight door. Click to enlarge.

ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steel and mining company, unveiled its new ultra-lightweight car door solutions. Using steels and technology currently available, ArcelorMittal’s global R&D automotive team has demonstrated that a 27% weight and cost saving can be achieved without compromising safety and structural requirements.

By looking ahead to new advanced high strength steels and technology that will come to market over the next few years, the team has identified additional solutions that will deliver even greater weight savings of up to 34% compared to existing steel car door solutions.

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Ford LCA harmonization study clarifies benefits of lightweighting for vehicle life cycle energy use and GHG emissions

May 29, 2013

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Correlation between weight reduction and life cycle primary energy demand for (a) component and (b) total vehicle scenarios. Credit: ACS; Kim and Wallington. Click to enlarge.

While reducing vehicle weight (lightweighting) by replacing steel and iron with alternatives such as aluminum, magnesium, and composites decreases fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions during vehicle use, it can increase energy consumption and GHG emissions during vehicle production.

Hyung Chul Kim and Timothy J. Wallington at Ford Motor’s Systems Analytics and Environmental Sciences Department set out to clarify the lifecycle benefits of vehicle lightweighting in a meta-analysis of previously published life cycle assessments (LCAs). While numerous studies assay the benefits of lightweighting, the wide variety of assumptions used makes it difficult to compare results from the studies, the pair noted in their paper, published in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Ricardo-led technology demonstrator delivers 72% improved fuel economy over regular Humvee

May 23, 2013

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Ricardo-TARDEC FED. Click to enlarge.

Ricardo released an analysis of two years of on-the-ground testing of the Ricardo-engineered Fuel-Efficient Ground Vehicle Demonstrator (FED) showing that, when compared to the US military’s regularly outfitted M1151 HMMWV (“Humvee”), the FED experienced a 72% improvement in fuel economy. (Earlier post.) The FED’s performance was assessed using a number of realistic duty cycles including highway, off-road and idle conditions.

The FED powertrain features include a supercharged Cummins I4 diesel engine; a high efficiency 28V permanent magnet integrated starter-generator from Kollmorgen that enables electric accessories and 20 kW of power for on-board equipment; a 6-speed automatic transmission from Aisin; and an accelerator feedback pedal and fuel economy display to inform drivers how to operate the vehicle to produce the best fuel economy.

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MIT team devises approaches for practical carbon-nanotube-coated carbon fiber; stronger, more electrically conductive

May 20, 2013

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MIT scientists demonstrated two approaches for growing CNTs on carbon fiber without degrading the fiber strength. Credit: ACS, Steiner et al. Click to enlarge.

Researchers at MIT have demonstrated two approaches for producing carbon fibers coated in carbon nanotubes without degrading the underlying fiber’s strength. A paper on the work, which could result in carbon-fiber composites that are not only stronger but also more electrically conductive, is published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces.

Hierarchical carbon fibers (CFs) sheathed with radial arrays of carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are promising candidates for improving the intra- and interlaminar properties of advanced fiber-reinforced composites (such as graphite/epoxy) and for high-surface-area electrodes for battery and supercapacitor architectures, the authors note.

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DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX polyamides used in SIM-CEL electric concept car to reduce weight

May 15, 2013

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DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX are used in the new SIM-CEL EV prototype. Click to enlarge.

The latest prototype electric car from Japan-based SIM-Drive Corporation (earlier post) features parts based on DSM’s Stanyl and EcoPaXX polyamides that make the car lighter and more sustainable.

SIM-Drive Corporation, founded by Hiroshi Shimizu and based in Kawasaki City, Japan, unveiled the SIM-CEL on 27 March—the third prototype of an advanced all-electric car incorporating in-wheel motors that the company has developed since it was founded in 2009. SIM stands for Shimizu In-wheel Motor, and CEL stands for Cool Energy Link.

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EDAG study finds aluminum BIW can deliver mass savings of 35-40% over steel; fuel economy boost

April 17, 2013

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Material selection for the Venza aluminum BIW. Click to enlarge.

A new study by EDAG Group, commissioned by the Aluminum in Transportation Group of the US Aluminum Association, finds that an all-aluminum body in white (BIW) can deliver potential mass savings in the 35 – 40% range over a base steel BIW. This, when combined with secondary mass savings and other design changes, could boost fuel economy by around 18%.

The study built upon research EDAG performed last year for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) examining mass reduction, safety and cost variables in a mid-size crossover Toyota Venza. The EPA study aimed to reduce vehicle mass by 20% while meeting all NHTSA and IIHS safety standards, and maintaining or improving performance, handling and braking.

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