The vision of the lightweight materials activity is to develop and validate cost-effective high-strength materials technologies that could significantly reduce vehicle weight without compromising cost, performance, safety, or recyclability. In addition, improved materials may pave the way for other technologies that can further improve vehicle fuel efficiency. Researchers are identifying lightweight, high-strength materials and materials processing technologies that can contribute cost-effectively to reducing the weight of the vehicle while maintaining or improving functionality, durability, reliability, and safety. Research focuses on five main areas:
- Cost reduction,
- Manufacturing, processing, forming technologies,
- Design data, predictive modeling test methodologies, and
- Joining, recycling, repair, and non-destructive evaluation.
Substituting lightweight, high-strength materials (such as aluminum, magnesium, titanium, advanced high-strength steels, fiber-reinforced composites, and metal matrix composites) for mild steel in vehicle applications can have a positive impact on fuel efficiency and emissions. Because the greatest barrier to the use of many of these lightweight materials is cost, the U.S. Department of Energy is leading the research effort to develop and validate technologies that reduce the cost of materials, components, and structures and/or improve their manufacturability.