• Materials Lightweighting

    Source: U.S. Department of Energy Vehicle Technologies Office 

    Advanced materials are essential for boosting the fuel economy of modern automobiles while maintaining safety and performance.

    Because it takes less energy to accelerate a lighter object than a heavier one, lightweight materials offer great potential for increasing vehicle efficiency. Replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials such as high-strength steel, magnesium (Mg) alloys, aluminum (Al) alloys, carbon fiber, and polymer composites can directly reduce the weight of a vehicle's body and chassis by up to 50 percent and therefore reduce a vehicle's fuel consumption. A 10% reduction in vehicle weight can result in a 6%-8% fuel economy improvement.

    By using lightweight structural materials, cars can carry additional advanced emission control systems, safety devices, and integrated electronic systems without increasing the overall weight of the vehicle. While any vehicle can use lightweight materials, they are especially important for hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles. Using lightweight materials in these vehicles can offset the weight of power systems such as batteries and electric motors, improving the efficiency and increasing their all-electric range. Alternatively, the use of lightweight materials could result in needing a smaller and lower cost battery while keeping the all-electric range of plug-in vehicles constant.

    Propulsion materials enable higher efficiencies in propulsion systems of all types. For example, many combustion engine components require advanced propulsion materials so they can withstand the high pressures and temperatures of high-efficiency combustion regimes. Similarly, novel propulsion materials may be able to replace the current expensive materials in electric motors and drivetrain components, thus lowering the cost of electric-drive vehicles.

    Using lightweight components and high-efficiency engines enabled by advanced materials in one quarter of the U.S. fleet could save more than 5 billion gallons of fuel annually by 2030.

    CAAT Seed Funded Projects

    • Kettering University (Flint, MI) developed an integrated CAD-module focused on design with composite materials, including composite properties, mechanics, and manufacturing processes.  Design guidelines and drafting notation are emphasized.

    • Kettering University (Flint, MI) developed an introductory course, “Design with Aluminum for Automotive Technologies”. The course covers the basics of engineering design, properties, and manufacturing processes, along with real life examples and applications of aluminum alloy materials commonly used in automotive and other applications.

    • Kettering University (Flint, MI) developed a course on joining aluminum to aluminum and dissimilar materials: cover the main technologies of joining aluminum and other materials, as well as applications in automotive and other industries.

    Browse the materials lightweighting section of our Resource Library for additional materials.