Innovative Materials Testing to Enhance Automotive Fuel Efficiency

As there is an increasing demand for improving the fuel efficiency of automobiles, manufacturers and suppliers are working together to analyze the possibilities of commercializing new technologies, which will help them in addressing consumer demand and meeting the requirements of stringent industry standards. Some examples of these partnerships may be found in the joint ventures established in recent years by Ford and Dow as well as General Motors and Teijin. In addition, specialized committees have been formed by longstanding industry groups to discuss research on technologies targeting improved fuel efficiency.

Efforts to Improve Automotive Fuel Efficiency

The Coalition for Automotive Lightweighting Materials (CALM), a subgroup established in 2010 by the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research (CAR), focuses on supporting a mixed-material method to achieve mass reduction. In order to facilitate a discussion between material providers and automakers, CAR has identified many different research topics, including cost/benefit considerations and constraints in technology implementation for vehicle mass objectives.

So far, roundtable discussions with Honda, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler have released key aspects of manufacturer lightweighting strategies and the challenges faced by each enterprise in closing to newly-revised National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) fuel efficiency targets. While these efforts represent initiatives to lower carbon fiber component production costs and establish partnerships between manufacturers and suppliers, other firms are maintaining independent programs.

New Materials and Technologies

Porsche AG, a company of the Volkswagen Group, has introduced new materials and innovative drivetrain technologies in its Panamera line of sedans. For the past several years, Panamera models have been offered with parallel hybrid drivetrains incorporating a nickel-hydride battery. Last year’s introduction of the Panamera Sport Turismo concept study released Porsche’s version of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain, called as e-hybrid, which features a much improved lithium-ion battery, in accordance with Pat Devereux of Top Gear. Although it may take some time to have a production version of this specific concept, the e-hybrid drivetrain will be featured in the 2014 Panamera S E-Hybrid later this year. With a claimed fuel consumption of over 80 mpg, it is likely to gain more interest upon introduction.

Figure 1. 2014 Porsche Panamera S E-Hybrid Drivetrain.

Although compelling value propositions can be achieved through innovative drivetrain systems, they also bring in a variety of design challenges that affect material selection processes. Weight reduction plays a decisive role in fuel efficiency programs because it may be possible to outfit lighter vehicles with smaller, more efficient engines. Initiatives aimed at coupling drivetrain technologies and innovative body-in-white materials are crucial for every key OEM. Such effort needs in-depth analyses into novel materials which balance strength and longevity prerequisites with finish and aesthetic requirements. Hence, in this realm, materials characterization is an integral part in facilitating the work of design teams.

Material Testing Solutions from Zwick

Both manufacturers and suppliers depend on material testing solutions offered by Zwick such as the Allround-Line to assess the viability of novel aluminum alloys during the design cycle and evaluate their quality in production. OEMs often collaborate with key suppliers to determine prototype materials which go through a chain of tests involving thermal and mechanical analyses.

Figure 2. Zwick’s new Allround-Line system for testing of fiber-reinforced composite specimens is compatible with 13 different test fixtures and enables testing to more than 100 standards.

Allround-Line systems have two testing areas, which provide them the capacity to rapidly changeover between test coupon specimen-level testing and component-level testing. This, in turn, helps them provide the flexibility required by central characterization labs through the minimization of switching time between tests.

Figure 3. Zwick’s test fixture designed specifically for the Interlaminar Shear Strength (ILSS) testing of fiber-reinforced composites.

For non-ambient tests, Allround-Line systems may be equipped with an optional temperature chamber to perform analyses in the temperature range of -80 °C to 250 °C. The laserXtens laser extensometer from Zwick may be used in combination with the temperature chamber for complex strain analysis at temperature. The laserXtens does not require direct contact with the test specimen, thus supporting compression and tension tests on both metals and plastics.

The test specimen is illuminated with laser light to create a speckle pattern, which is then analyzed by the laserXtens laser extensometer for changes caused by deformation. The resulting data is then converted into strain values. The laserXtens laser extensometer fulfills or surpasses Class B2 of ASTM E83 (Class 1 of ISO 9513). This makes it an optimal solution to accurately measure strain under non-ambient conditions.

About Zwick

For over 150 years the name of Zwick Roell has stood for outstanding technical expertise, innovation, quality and reliability in materials and component testing. Our customers’ confidence in us is reflected in our position as world- leaders in static testing and the significant growth we are experiencing in fatigue strength testing systems. The figures tell the same story: in the 2011 the company achieved incoming orders of €185m.

With innovative product development, a comprehensive range and worldwide service, this family concern supplies tailor-made solutions for the most demanding research and development and quality assurance requirements in over 20 industries. With over 1100 employees, a production facility in Ulm, Germany, additional facilities in America and Asia plus agencies in 56 countries worldwide, the Zwick brand name guarantees the highest product and service quality.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Zwick.

For more information on this source, please visit Zwick.

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