USCAR and U.S. DoE Invest $195 Million in Lightweight Materials Research

15 July 2005

The United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) has signed a cooperative research agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to support continued research and development in the areas of lightweight composite materials and advanced battery technologies for vehicles.

The agreements, which include DOE funding and industry cost share, represent a total investment potential of $195 million over the next five years. Nearly all of the DOE funding will be passed via subcontracts to suppliers and research institutions through the U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC) and U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP), both consortia of the USCAR.

The DOE/USCAR partnership has been ongoing for more than 10 years. One of its successes has been the development of the nickel metal hydride (NiMH) battery technology used in current, commercially available, light-duty hybrid electric vehicles.

DOE’s FreedomCAR Program and USAMP will split the cost of research and development for a number of new materials and technologies that will reduce weight without compromising durability, reliability, and safety of vehicles.

The research will work to develop new alloys of aluminium, magnesium and titanium to be used in vehicle framing, body, powertrain and engine components. Beyond metals, new materials for use in car manufacturing such as carbon fibre and polymer matrix composites could produce weight reductions from 25 and up to 70 percent.

All members of the USCAR partnership have benefited with the research. DaimlerChrysler for example, has made great strides with the creation of the ME 412 (pictured). An all aluminium engine, carbon fibre/aluminium body, and carbon ceramic composite disc brake rotors make up a vehicle that is on the cutting edge of technology. By utilizing what has been learned from the ME 412, many of these technological advances in materials were further developed in the new Jeep Hurricane concept vehicle.

Ford,/b>, showcasing its newly launched Mercury Mariner Hybrid, cited USABC development and benchmarking programs that provided a comprehensive understanding of the best available hybrid electric vehicle technology. Ford also credited USAMP's Automotive Composite Consortium for developing a process that enabled the development of lightweight composite body sides in the Aston Martin product line and cited high-strength steel technologies that are funneling into its 2008 and 2009 programs.

General Motors’ partnership with USCAR and the Department of Energy has resulted in significant achievements in areas including advanced propulsion, hybrids and fuel cells – all aimed at reducing fuel consumption and as a consequence reliance on imported oil.

GM’s Sequel exemplifies the company’s drive to “reinvent the automobile and remove it from the environmental equation”. The Sequel, built on an 11-inch chassis with an all-aluminium frame, combines fuel cells, by-wire and wheel hub motors to create an a vehicle that travels 300 miles on its hydrogen supply.

Light-weight materials, the focus of USAMP, also are important to the reduction of fuel consumption. GM showcased the new Corvette Z06 with a magnesium engine cradle that is 35 percent lighter than its aluminium counterpart.

“Bringing together the best minds in industry, government and academia will develop technology faster and more cost effectively than any one organization could do alone,” USCAR Executive Director Bill Gouse said.

USCAR facilitates cooperative research among DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, which share the common goal of strengthening the technology base of the U. S. automotive industry.

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