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Automotive

A breakthrough in vehicle weight reduction

The automotive sector, more than any other, is under enormous legislative, political and public pressure to reduce emissions, improve fuel economy and control global warming by curtailing CO2 production. Despite being key to tackling these issues, vehicle weight has continued its upward trend, driven by safety legislation, increasingly complex driver features and the move towards hybridisation and electric vehicles. Industry researchers are warning that this increasing trend must be reversed and turned into a 10% weight reduction over the next decade.

Each kg of weight saved in a vehicle contributes 0.08g of CO2 reduction per kilometre, illustrating the effectiveness of weight reduction in tackling environmental issues. In addition, weight reduction contributes directly to range extension in electric vehicles, for which market penetration is expected to reach 30% globally by 2030. Light commercial vehicles, buses and trucks are particularly susceptible to local political initiatives in urban centres of population, such as the banning of diesel-engined vehicles, congestion charging and road usage pricing.

With this background, vehicle weight reduction is becoming critical. Other lightweight materials are important in the right context, but many have limitations when applied to components that traditionally have been produced in ferrous materials or aluminium. The latter has been the material of choice for weight reduction in powertrain and chassis, but its mechanical properties are inferior to ferrous materials, resulting in larger components, which can be difficult to package. Advanced polymers and magnesium can suffer from limitations in terms of stiffness, robustness at elevated temperatures, compressive loading and under-bonnet environmental performance. Carbon fibre reinforced polymer composites (CFRPs) are unsuitable for many highly loaded, discrete components, particularly those subject to off-axis, unexpected or complex load conditions; crash performance, repairability and cost are all inhibitors.

Hybrid-AMC, on the other hand, is attractive for engine applications (such as block reinforcement, engine mounts, main bearing caps, connecting rods and piston pins), transmissions (gearbox casings, differential housings, transfer case housings), suspension components (uprights, radius arms, etc), brake calipers, seat frames, wheels, body structural components and sub-frames. Rotating or reciprocating components are particularly suited to AMC application, as the reduction in inertia will improve dynamic performance. The increased penetration of electric and hybrid vehicles, with heavy battery packs and powertrains, creates new challenges for vehicle weight, which advanced materials can help to solve. Hybrid-AMC components can be packaged in the same volume, with similar mechanical properties, as cast iron or steel components; an aluminium component can be reduced in volume to that of a ferrous part, with an associated weight reduction. Application in high-performance automotive, including motorsport, can provide a competitive edge where the ultimate in mechanical performance is required. Wherever a casting, forging or fabricated metal part is used on a vehicle, hybrid-AMC can provide an attractive alternative.

Main photo: Jaguar F-Type courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover

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CMT, which is made up of CMT Plc and its subsidiary CMT Ltd, is an advanced materials technology group.

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Composite Metal Technology Ltd
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Wade Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire
RG24 8GT, United Kingdom

T: +44 (0)1256 477 741
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Composite Metal Technology Ltd, Prisma Business Park, 3 Berrington Way, Wade Road, Basingstoke, Hampshire, RG24 8GT, United Kingdom