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Automotive Technology Roadmap Presents a Mixed-Material Future

the road ahead© by Joey Kyber

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) published Technology Roadmap: Materials and Manufacturing, which forecasts materials and manufacturing trends based on the CAR team’s internal research and a thorough analysis of available industry reports. The study conclusions were achieved with critical input from a group of subject matter experts.

The Technology Roadmap notes that a number of factors can affect the automotive industry’s progress on material technology in the coming decades, including fuel economy regulations, added weight due to batteries, added safety and comfort features, and increasing durability requirements for shared vehicles, etc. The researchers found that vehicle lightweighting will remain a top priority for the industry as automakers strive to use the right materials for the correct application promoting mixed-material body structures.

Currently, an average vehicle body in the U.S. fleet today is 65% steel, 13% aluminum, 4% magnesium, and 6% plastic and polymer composites, with the remaining being represented by a variety of materials. The aluminum is typically comprised of either 5000 or 6000 series and used mostly in closures (doors, hood, liftgate, and fenders) and powertrain components with few structural applications.

Materials used for key vehicle components today and projected into the future.
Materials used for key vehicle components today and projected into the future. (Source: CAR.)

The report predicts that future vehicle structures will contain a mix of materials, including: high-strength steel (HSS), high-strength aluminum, some magnesium, as well as plastics and polymer composites. The overall percentage of steel is expected to decrease — with aluminum will most likely to replace mild steel for closures (doors, hoods, liftgate, and fenders), roof panels, and body sides.

Read and download the full report here.

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