Current Trends in Automotive Lightweighting Strategies and Materials


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Current Trends in Automotive Lightweighting Strategies and Materials

by Frank Czerwinski
CanmetMATERIALS, Natural Resources Canada, Hamilton, ON L8P 0A5, Canada
Academic Editor: Carola Esposito Corcione
Materials202114(21), 6631; https://doi.org/10.3390/ma14216631
Received: 17 September 2021 / Revised: 26 October 2021 / Accepted: 29 October 2021 / Published: 3 November 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Lightweight Structural Materials for Automotive and Aerospace)

Abstract

The automotive lightweighting trends, being driven by sustainability, cost, and performance, that create the enormous demand for lightweight materials and design concepts, are assessed as a part of the circular economy solutions in modern mobility and transportation. The current strategies that aim beyond the basic weight reduction and cover also the structural efficiency as well as the economic and environmental impact are explained with an essence of guidelines for materials selection with an eco-friendly approach, substitution rules, and a paradigm of the multi-material design. Particular attention is paid to the metallic alloys sector and progress in global R&D activities that cover the “lightweight steel”, conventional aluminum, and magnesium alloys, together with well-established technologies of components manufacturing and future-oriented solutions, and with both adjusting to a transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. Moreover, opportunities and challenges that the lightweighting creates are discussed with strategies of achieving its goals through structural engineering, including the metal-matrix composites, laminates, sandwich structures, and bionic-inspired archetypes. The profound role of the aerospace and car-racing industries is emphasized as the key drivers of lightweighting in mainstream automotive vehicles.

Korea Abstract

경량 소재 및 디자인 개념에 대한 엄청난 수요를 창출하는 지속 가능성, 비용 및 성능에 의해 주도되는 자동차 경량화 추세는 현대 이동성 및 운송 분야의 순환 경제 솔루션의 일부로 평가됩니다.

기본적인 경량화를 넘어 구조적 효율성과 경제적, 환경적 영향을 포괄하는 현재의 전략을 친환경적 접근을 통한 자재 선택 가이드라인, 대체 규칙, 멀티 머티리얼 디자인의 패러다임을 핵심으로 설명합니다.

금속 합금 부문과 “경량 강철”, 기존 알루미늄 및 마그네슘 합금을 포괄하는 글로벌 R&D 활동의 진행과 부품 제조 및 미래 지향적인 솔루션에 대한 잘 정립된 기술과 함께 내연기관에서 전기차로의 전환이 리루어지고 있습니다

또한 경량화가 창출하는 기회와 과제는 금속 매트릭스 복합 재료, 라미네이트, 샌드위치 구조 및 생체 공학에서 영감을 받은 원형을 포함한 구조 엔지니어링을 통해 목표를 달성하는 전략과 함께 논의됩니다.

항공 우주 및 자동차 경주 산업의 중요한 역할은 주류 자동차에서 경량화의 핵심 동인으로 강조됩니다.

Keywords

automotive lightweighting; circular economy; sustainability; lightweight alloys

1. Introduction

Lightweighting is becoming the major trend, reaching many industrial sectors associated not only with all forms of transportation but more broadly with civil infrastructure, manufacturing, and clean energy technologies [1]. In contrast to common perception, the lightweighting objectives are not exclusively focused on the reduction of weight but cover also other aspects involving the structural efficiency as well as the economic and environmental impact. In industry, reducing the weight of a product not only consumes fewer resources for its manufacturing but also requires less energy for its transportation, thus preserving natural resources and reducing the harmful pollution. Although lightweighting is not a new concept and aerospace has been on the lightweight path since its origin, while other sectors have also pursued it for decades, it is re-emerging as the mature, enormous growth course that is driven by sustainability, cost, and performance.The core lightweighting objectives can be achieved through a number of individual strategies or their combinations that balance the design and material factors. The aim of lightweight design is to build structures with a minimal use of materials and an optimized utilization of the material strength, with numerical methods being developed to model the complex geometries of lightweight structures, e.g., in a parametric isogeometric environment [2]. The material selection has many aspects and just increasing its strength alone leads to a design weight reduction without changing its specific density. Through exploring this factor and using the high strength, Nb-containing weathering steel for, currently, the tallest bridge in the world, Viaduct de Millau, France, allowed for the reduction of its overall weight by 60% and for the related carbon footprint through fabrication, welding, construction, and transportation [3].The ultimate lightweighting goal can be accomplished, however, through an application of lightweight materials and by combining their unique features with other strategies [4]. An increasing demand for lightweight materials led to an expansion of research towards novel solutions with strategies for achieving lightweighting goals through structural engineering, including metal-matrix composites, laminates, sandwich structures, and bionic-inspired archetypes. This report provides an overview of the current lightweighting strategies and materials, with a major focus on structural metallic alloys and their present and possible future applications in automotive transportation. It is a general statement, expressed by global automakers, that the vehicle weight reduction is a core part of the overall technology strategy that the industry will utilize to achieve the future targets of energy consumption, emissions, safety, and affordability.

2. Lightweighting as a Part of the Circular Economy

In contrast to the linear economy, with its predisposition towards wasting valuable resources, the concept of the circular economy offers opportunities for a more productive use of materials through recirculating their larger share through reuse and recycling, thus reducing waste in production and extending the lifetimes of products, and through associated policies (Figure 1). The purpose of moving towards a circular economy is to slow down the depletion of scarce natural resources, reduce environmental damage from an extraction of raw materials, and reduce pollution caused by their processing, use, and end-of-life (EOL) recycling of materials [5].

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Figure 1. Schematics explaining the vehicle Life Cycle Assessment that encompasses all phases of the product cycle, from raw material extraction to end-of-life recycling and disposal.
Figure 2. Classification of transport vehicles, showing current types of hybrid and electric solutions.
Figure 2. Classification of transport vehicles, showing current types of hybrid and electric solutions.
Figure 3. Major factors affecting the GHG emission in automotive vehicles and the vehicle weight reduction as the contributor.
Figure 3. Major factors affecting the GHG emission in automotive vehicles and the vehicle weight reduction as the contributor.
Figure 4. Architecture difference between internal combustion engine vehicles and battery electric vehicles: (a) ICE, Toyota Crown redesigned platform, 2018 [18], and (b) BEV, Hyundai/Kia/Genesis E-GMP platform, 2021 [19].
Figure 4. Architecture difference between internal combustion engine vehicles and battery electric vehicles: (a) ICE, Toyota Crown redesigned platform, 2018 [18], and (b) BEV, Hyundai/Kia/Genesis E-GMP platform, 2021 [19].
Figure 5. A concept of lightweight design through topology optimization: (a) topology optimization work-flow, with the example of a 75% mass reduction for a cube under a compressive load on the top face; (b) post-optimization result, showing element pseudo-densities of >0.25; and (c) structural member of the vehicle suspension assembly after EBM manufacturing and CNC machining [25].
Figure 5. A concept of lightweight design through topology optimization: (a) topology optimization work-flow, with the example of a 75% mass reduction for a cube under a compressive load on the top face; (b) post-optimization result, showing element pseudo-densities of >0.25; and (c) structural member of the vehicle suspension assembly after EBM manufacturing and CNC machining [25].
Figure 6. Examples of manufacturing processes that can be used for the lightweight components of electric vehicles [26].
Figure 6. Examples of manufacturing processes that can be used for the lightweight components of electric vehicles [26].
Figure 7. An example of the multi-material selection algorithm for lightweight design, taking into account product recyclability [29].
Figure 7. An example of the multi-material selection algorithm for lightweight design, taking into account product recyclability [29].
Figure 8. Multi-material designs of ICE and EV (body-in-white): (a) ICE, multi-material lightweight vehicle (MMLV), Magna, 2015 [33], and (b) EV, Porsche 800 V Taycan electric sports car, 2019 [35].
Figure 8. Multi-material designs of ICE and EV (body-in-white): (a) ICE, multi-material lightweight vehicle (MMLV), Magna, 2015 [33], and (b) EV, Porsche 800 V Taycan electric sports car, 2019 [35].
Figure 9. Reducing density of steels for automotive applications: (a) density as a function of aluminum content for binary Fe-Al18 and for quaternary 0.2C−8.5Mn (wt.%) alloys, wherein the continuous line corresponds to the density calculation for the quaternary system using Thermo-Calc [39]; (b) elongation (TE) as a function of ultimate tensile strength (UTS) in Fe–Mn–Al–C alloys (solution-treated and water-quenched strips) [40].
Figure 9. Reducing density of steels for automotive applications: (a) density as a function of aluminum content for binary Fe-Al18 and for quaternary 0.2C−8.5Mn (wt.%) alloys, wherein the continuous line corresponds to the density calculation for the quaternary system using Thermo-Calc [39]; (b) elongation (TE) as a function of ultimate tensile strength (UTS) in Fe–Mn–Al–C alloys (solution-treated and water-quenched strips) [40].
Figure 10. AHSS steels in electric vehicles: (a) schematics of formability–strength relationships in AHSS and (b,c) contribution of various steel grades to battery electric vehicles developed within the Future Steel Vehicle (FSV) program with 95% HSLA and AHSS, and with 48% having a strength over 1000 MPa, according to the World Steel Association [46].
Figure 10. AHSS steels in electric vehicles: (a) schematics of formability–strength relationships in AHSS and (b,c) contribution of various steel grades to battery electric vehicles developed within the Future Steel Vehicle (FSV) program with 95% HSLA and AHSS, and with 48% having a strength over 1000 MPa, according to the World Steel Association [46].
Figure 11. Current and predicted contribution of major automotive materials: (a) aluminum content growth in North American vehicles based on data from [47] and (b) average vehicle structure (body-in-white and closures) material percentage by curb weight per vehicle based on data from [49].
Figure 11. Current and predicted contribution of major automotive materials: (a) aluminum content growth in North American vehicles based on data from [47] and (b) average vehicle structure (body-in-white and closures) material percentage by curb weight per vehicle based on data from [49].
Figure 12. Considered application of aluminum in electric cars: (a,b) aluminum sheet battery enclosures of 1st and 2nd generation by Novelis [54] and (c,d) concept of lightweight drum brake and bionic-inspired caliper by Continental [55].
Figure 12. Considered application of aluminum in electric cars: (a,b) aluminum sheet battery enclosures of 1st and 2nd generation by Novelis [54] and (c,d) concept of lightweight drum brake and bionic-inspired caliper by Continental [55].
Figure 13. Example of Life Cycle Assessments of AHSS steel and aluminum in electric cars: (a) savings by stage and (b) savings by use phase. Details of the model, developed by the European Aluminum, are available from [66].
Figure 13. Example of Life Cycle Assessments of AHSS steel and aluminum in electric cars: (a) savings by stage and (b) savings by use phase. Details of the model, developed by the European Aluminum, are available from [66].
Figure 14. Schematics of semisolid processing and examples of automotive components manufactured from magnesium alloy using injection molding: (a) car seat backrest AM50, 1970 g; (b) car dashboard member AZ91D, 138 g; (c) car navigator member AZ91D, 280 g; (d) car dashboard member AZ91D, 710 g; and (e) car navigator member AZ91D, 278 g. Parts manufactured by SSD Magnesium, China [76].
Figure 14. Schematics of semisolid processing and examples of automotive components manufactured from magnesium alloy using injection molding: (a) car seat backrest AM50, 1970 g; (b) car dashboard member AZ91D, 138 g; (c) car navigator member AZ91D, 280 g; (d) car dashboard member AZ91D, 710 g; and (e) car navigator member AZ91D, 278 g. Parts manufactured by SSD Magnesium, China [76].
Figure 15. Aluminum matrix composite use in automotive parts: (a,b) MMC rotor of an axial flux electric motor and a hydrogen fuel cell compressor developed by Alvant, UK [86] and (c,d) composite manufactured by a reinforcement of the aluminum matrix through a steel mesh [87].
Figure 15. Aluminum matrix composite use in automotive parts: (a,b) MMC rotor of an axial flux electric motor and a hydrogen fuel cell compressor developed by Alvant, UK [86] and (c,d) composite manufactured by a reinforcement of the aluminum matrix through a steel mesh [87].
Figure 16. Application of fiber metal laminates in automotive parts: (a) general concept of FML [90]; (b) elastic and plastic regions of the steel–FRP composite under three-point bending [94]; and (c) 2016 BMW 7 Series (G12) CFRP B-pillar inner reinforcement [95].
Figure 16. Application of fiber metal laminates in automotive parts: (a) general concept of FML [90]; (b) elastic and plastic regions of the steel–FRP composite under three-point bending [94]; and (c) 2016 BMW 7 Series (G12) CFRP B-pillar inner reinforcement [95].
Figure 17. Sandwich-structured composites: (a) schematics showing elements of the sandwich structure [105]; (b) aluminum foam sandwich [105]; and (c,d) concept of applying the lightweight aluminum and ARPRO propylene-based foam sandwich material in a car (Inrekor, UK) [110].
Figure 17. Sandwich-structured composites: (a) schematics showing elements of the sandwich structure [105]; (b) aluminum foam sandwich [105]; and (c,d) concept of applying the lightweight aluminum and ARPRO propylene-based foam sandwich material in a car (Inrekor, UK) [110].
Figure 18. Bionic-inspired cellular structure design: (a) bee honeycomb pattern; (b) geometry of the cellular structure designed for numerical modelling [112]; (c) fractal texture of the wings of dragonflies; and (d) finite element model of the novel fractal structures [114]
Figure 18. Bionic-inspired cellular structure design: (a) bee honeycomb pattern; (b) geometry of the cellular structure designed for numerical modelling [112]; (c) fractal texture of the wings of dragonflies; and (d) finite element model of the novel fractal structures [114]
Figure 19. Additive manufacturing of ultralight components: (a) octahedron cell lattice of the structure; (b,c) detailed image of the structure manufactured by laser powder bed fusion using Inconel 718; and (d) deformation map during the vertical compression [118].
Figure 19. Additive manufacturing of ultralight components: (a) octahedron cell lattice of the structure; (b,c) detailed image of the structure manufactured by laser powder bed fusion using Inconel 718; and (d) deformation map during the vertical compression [118].
Figure 20. Schematics of the relative lightweighting cost in different sectors of transportation and the associated progress in lightweight materials.
Figure 20. Schematics of the relative lightweighting cost in different sectors of transportation and the associated progress in lightweight materials.

10. Conclusions

The automotive lightweighting strategy is becoming the mature growth trend, driven by sustainability, cost, and performance, and creating an enormous demand for modern lightweight materials and design concepts. The lightweighting strategy is growing as a part of the circular economy and is the solution for both modern mobility and transportation; its objectives are not exclusively focused on the reduction of weight but also cover other aspects such as structural efficiency as well as economic and environmental impacts. It appears that the emergence of electric vehicles creates even more pressure on lightweighting.In current lightweighting strategies, in addition to design, the materials represent the key part of the trend. A quest for lightweight materials creates many challenges and opportunities not only for existing conventional metallic alloys but also for novel strategies of achieving lightweighting goals through structural engineering, including metal-matrix composites, laminates, sandwich structures, and bionic-inspired archetypes.Lightweighting design combined with the use of advanced lightweight materials leads to structural optimization, maximum weight reduction, and fulfilled required performance and safety standards. Manufacturability is still an important limitation to the design of lightweight structures but with progress in additive manufacturing, this constraint will gradually be eliminated.

This research study was funded by the Program of Energy Research and Development (PERD) of Natural Resources Canada.

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