UPDATED: Vehicle lightweighting coalition targets mixed use of plastics, aluminum, steel

The Center for Automotive Research (Ann Arbor, MI) has launched the Coalition of Automotive Lightweighting Materials (CALM) to support efforts by auto manufacturers to aggressively down-weight vehicles to improve performance, fuel economy and safety. Founding members include including Trexel, 3M, BASF, Plastic Omnium, Altair, EWI, Material Sciences Corp., Michelin, PPG Industries, and Shiloh Industries.

CALM is reportedly the first known organization of its kind to coalesce the strengths and knowledge of the aluminum and plastics/composites industries with technology providers in design, fabrication and joining to accelerate the implementation of mixed-material solutions that will reduce vehicle mass. "The aluminum and plastics/composites industries are developing advanced materials to help auto makers design lighter and safer cars. Leading technology companies are also developing weight-saving solutions that include these materials along with steel for new applications. By working together we can accelerate the application of these progressive materials and solutions," says Jay Baron, CAR's president and the director of CALM.


American Chemistry Council plastics VP Steve Russell: Plastics, composites and other lightweight materials to realize vehicle lightweighting targets.

CALM's aim is to support the cost-effective integration of mixed materials to achieve significant reductions in weight through the collaborative efforts of technology providers with automakers. CALM is supported by The Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group and the American Chemistry Council.

Vehicle fuel economy remains one of the nation's critical policy concerns. The recent Notice of Proposed Rulemaking from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish vehicle corporate average fuel economy standards at 54.5 mpg in 2025 is in response to these concerns. Reducing vehicle mass is uniformly recognized as one of the key enabling technologies necessary to help achieve these fuel economy targets, as well as to reduce related tailpipe emissions. Historically, automakers have steadily increased the amount of aluminum, plastics/composites and high strength steel in cars, but the new fuel economy targets will require further acceleration in the rate of implementation.

 "Lightweight materials are one of the key technologies needed to produce more fuel efficient cars for the 21st century. Partnerships like CALM will help automotive companies utilize plastics, composites and other lightweight materials to meet these goals," said Steve Russell Vice President of Plastics at the American Chemistry Council.

"As automakers rapidly transition to low weight, high strength materials, multi-materials solutions will be vital to boosting fuel economy and cutting emissions. Through individual company efforts and through the new CALM partnership, the aluminum industry is committed to working with our customers and other suppliers to further accelerate and ease the adoption of advanced materials options," says Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG) and marketing director at Alcoa Inc. (New York).

Integrating advanced low-weight materials can present challenges with the design, joining, and structural validation. By working collaboratively with automakers, CALM aims to overcome these challenges through precompetitive efforts that will accelerate the adoption of down-weighting technologies and the overall benefits they offer automakers and ultimately consumers.

"One of the first tasks for CALM will be to meet with the engineering groups at the automakers to understand their mass reduction strategies and challenges so the supplier industries can develop and apply their technology solutions with each auto company," says Baron.-[email protected] 

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