Alcoa Foundation Advancing Sustainability Research | Lightweight Vehicle Structures | Outcomes

Outcomes

Lightweight Metal-Based Vehicle Structures: Innovative Design and Agile Manufacture

The Ohio State University – Institute for Materials Research

OSU

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This research will lead to new vehicle structures. Current state-of-the-art vehicle structures are primarily formed of steel stampings. These stampings are joined by spot welds and further reinforced with additional welding in critical areas. While economical to produce, these structures have not changed substantially in many decades and are not ideal in terms of weight savings. With future emphasis on mileage, passenger safety, vehicle handling and longevity, a new approach to vehicle structure is required. 

More specifically, the Institute for Materials Research is helping to engender this industry-wide change by educating both engineers-in-training and practicing engineers on a holistic approach to multi-material structural joining. While most engineers often think intuitively about joining at points via spot welds or bolts, a holistic analysis shows that innovative joining over surfaces can give much improved assemblies and structures. The analysis, approaches, manufacturing, demonstration and dissemination of these concepts will enable the creation of innovative, light, multi-material vehicle structures. While this project is focusing on these basics, separate related programs are focusing on structural and environmental durability.

The program will benefit populations at the local, regional, national and global level. Locally, The Ohio State University is a center of excellence for the development of next generation vehicles, and is training the leaders of the next generation's workforce in these and related areas. This project will influence students who will go on to become leaders in the field. 

Regionally, innovative manufacturing research with more agile methods for both low-volume production and mass production, will aid the regional manufacturing economy. With the high multipliers for manufacturing, this will benefit the entire regional economy.

Nationally, a new class of light vehicle structures will be manufacturable in America. These designs will be unique and economically competitive, even considering potential disadvantages of U.S. labor costs, as they will benefit from high quality and short logistic chains.

Globally, lightweight vehicle structures will reduce energy usage directly and indirectly, by enabling new powertrains. This will reduce carbon emissions, thereby improving the global environment.

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