The new architecture associated with hybrid and electric vehicles offers considerable opportunities for reducing overall vehicle weight and improving fuel economy, whilst maintaining desired levels of vehicle performance targets. With this in mind the project has researched, developed and proven innovative materials and process solutions for structural applications. These materials and process solutions will contribute to a significant reduction in the overall environmental impact of future vehicles.
Following an in-depth study into the current state of the art for automotive materials, two materials and process technologies were identified for further research that could offer lightweight solutions.
A rapid stamp-forming process for thermoplastic composites that offers up to 50% weight save over conventional materials:
- Fully defined high volume production route, suitable for deployment in existing stamped metal supply chain
- Validated in the production of two demonstrator components (structural seat back and front longitudinal component)
- Benchmarked against conventional metallic material production routes in terms of cost, performance, environmental impact and volume production considerations
- Robust modelling capability proven, allowing accurate performance predictions by automotive engineers
- Effective and industrially-relevant joining approach formulated to allow the incorporation of structural elements manufactured from alternative materials into existing Body In White (BIW) structures
Hot-forming of Ultra High Strength (UHSS) boron steels:
- Implementation of the hot-forming process in conjunction with project partners
- Production of UHSS demonstrator components (front longitudinal section)
- Evaluation of resultant UHSS mechanical properties
Research was also conducted in the following areas:
A study into, and identification of, lightweight vehicle glazing system opportunities
Environmental impact assessment:
Creation of a rapid, easy to use tool for calculating vehicle life-cycle CO2 performance
A complete ‘top down’ life-cycle CO2 review of the LCVTP vehicle incorporating technologies identified and developed during the project
A detailed predictive design study into the design opportunities afforded by future hybrid and electric lightweight vehicle architectures
Business Impact – New Products and Processes
TMETC and WMG have developed an innovative seat back structure using rapid-stamp formed thermoplastic composites that has been proven to relevant international standards. From the results of this study, engineers have now created a full seat specification that offers a weight saving in excess of 40% as compared to traditional steel-based structures.
TMETC and WMG have developed a structural element (longitudinal beam) that provides a 20% weight saving when compared to aluminium and around 50% saving when compared to steel. The new tooling was designed to work with both existing metal stamping equipment and within a new composite forming process.