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Obama administration announces funding for advanced vehicle material development




March 27, 2012—The White House last week announced a new $14.2 million effort to accelerate the development and deployment of stronger and lighter materials for advanced vehicles, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

The multi-million dollar funding will support the development of high-strength, lightweight carbon fiber composites and advanced steels and alloys to help vehicle manufacturers improve fuel economy, safety and performance. The initiative is meant to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil, limit carbon pollution and save money for drivers.

"By investing in next-generation vehicle materials and components, we are helping U.S. manufacturers improve the fuel efficiency of our cars and trucks and ensuring American companies remain at the cutting-edge of the global auto industry," said Steven Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary. "Lighter, stronger materials will help improve the performance of our vehicles while saving families and businesses money at the pump."

The DOE said replacing traditional steel components with lightweight materials—including advanced high-strength steel, magnesium, aluminum, and polymer composites—allows manufacturers to include additional safety devices, integrated electronic systems and emissions control equipment on vehicles without increasing weight. Use of lighter materials also reduces a vehicle's fuel consumption. A 10 percent vehicle weight reduction can improve fuel economy up to 8 percent, according to the DOE.

The DOE said it will fund projects across three major areas of materials research and development:

• Predictive modeling of carbon fiber composites: Carbon fiber composites are capable of reducing vehicle component weight up to 50 percent compared to conventional automotive steel structures. The DOE will implement projects to validate modeling tools that optimize the performance and cost-effectiveness of carbon fiber composite materials for vehicle body, chassis and interior uses.
• Predictive modeling of advanced steels: Advanced high strength steels are capable of reducing vehicle component weight by more than 25 percent, according to the DOE. The DOE will implement projects to develop modeling tools that optimize the performance and cost-effectiveness of third-generation high strength steels for the vehicle body and chassis.
• Advanced alloy development for automotive and heavy-duty engines: As manufacturers work to improve engine efficiency, cast engine components must be strong enough to withstand higher cylinder pressures, according to the DOE. The DOE will implement projects to develop low-cost, high-strength alloys for automotive and heavy-duty engine blocks and cylinder heads.

The DOE said it will use up to $8.2 million of the available funding on these projects throughout 2012, and will use the remaining $6 million for additional projects in 2013. The DOE expects its vehicle materials development projects to take two to four years to complete.

The DOE is currently accepting applications from industry, national laboratories and university led-teams to help enable technologies that drive innovation in vehicle design. Applications are due May 7. For more information on application requirements, visit eere-exchange.energy.gov.

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