The trend of light weight vehicles took peak during the starting of 20th century with 17.4 million unit’s sale in US annually and sustained at 16 million units through 2007. Though the 2008 debt financing affected the motor vehicle bubble, the investments in research & development of automotives didn’t hinder at the same rate. While the annual U.S. light vehicle sales reached their lowest point in 2009 and started increasing since then. The majority value of the global automotive industry is parts sector, but the importance of light weight vehicles globally gave a penetrating angle for the investors to do investments in the new materials and technologies like light weight & bio-based automotive materials in plastics & metals that are almost replacing the whole body structures in automotive front-end modules at an accelerated rate.
All these industry efforts are to acquire the untapped market in developed and developing counties that is eagerly waiting for the light weight vehicles because of the high emphasis on growing oil prices and greenhouse gasses concerns. So, these light weight vehicles are going to give more mileage with the same amount of energy compared to regular vehicles. However, the challenge lies at pricing of the end product because of the high costs associated with the development and implementation of these advanced materials and production technologies.
Technological Dimensions Of The Automotive Industry In Producing Light Weight Components
The industry is considering the large scope of potential in novel materials applications focusing on light alloys, thermoplastics, carbon or other fiber-reinforced polymers, composites, advanced steels and tailored honeycombs, foams, multifunctional materials into the body parts, chassis and heavier interior systems that includes optimization of structural layouts, numerical simulation, multi-functional design, testing, manufacturing processes. The standardization issues are considered on the innovative structural layouts that could let new electric vehicles to easily adapt the materials involved in the assembling process in order to improve safety by enhanced energy absorbing capability. Hence, this leads to a better deal with asymmetric crash conditions for the compatibility of size and weight proportion of the vehicle.
Investment in research by the Oak Ridge National Labs and U.S. Department of Energy produced a low cost carbon fiber using lignin as part of an initiative to produce multiple value added streams from biological feedstock and lightweight components for vehicles. While ThyssenKrupp’s has come up with many chassis solutions & concepts that use the potential of high and ultrahigh strength steels for optimization of chassis structure which helps to reduce weight of the vehicle. These concepts are also announced as cost effective and used hot-rolled complex phase steel with yield strength of 680 megapascals that remarkably stronger than the steels used in the chassis designs till now. So, the players in the industry are equipping themselves with the competitive edge to sustain in the coming up competition.
- » The global lightweight materials consumption for transportation equipment in 2006 was 42.8 million tons/$80.5 billion that has increased above 9% i.e. 68.5 million tons/$106.4 billion by 2011.
- » The above metal quantity largest percentage accounts high strength steel and followed by aluminium & plastics.
- » The passenger cars and light trucks among motor vehicles are the largest end user segment made of lightweight materials.
Materials Role In Light Weight Materials For Automotives
Steel: Among the metals and composites, steel is the most adorable component that has been playing an important role in the automotives manufacturing process. It is the major interest area for steel industry and component suppliers who are investing heavily in its innovation. The inherent capability of steel to absorb impact energy in a crash situation led the material to be often a first choice for the automotive designers. While the components in a body in white structure should undergo tests that proves the metal be able to absorb or transmit impact energy in a crash situation to decide about the suitability of the materials for automotive application.
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe set up modernized mills to produce high tensile steels for lightweight automotive construction, starting material for tin-plate, plus steels for oil and gas pipelines, and electrical steel. While, Chrysler and many foreign carmakers depends on zinc-iron coatings, which can be made by electro galvanizing or by producing galvaneal, which is an inline annealed galvanized steel, on hot dip lines.