Press Release: USCAR Materials Partnership Maps Path to Increased Use of Magnesium in Vehicles
SOUTHFIELD, Mich., April 16, 2007 – Magnesium automotive components are robust and extremely light. When used in a car or truck, they can significantly reduce a vehicle’s weight and fuel consumption. Yet an average U.S.-made vehicle contains only 10 to 12 pounds of magnesium, compared to hundreds of pounds of heavier plastics and aluminum and thousands of pounds of cast iron and steel.
In a recently released report titled “Magnesium Vision 2020 – A North American Automotive Strategic Vision for Magnesium,” the United States Automotive Materials Partnership (USAMP), a consortium of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) composed of DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, indicates that if the proper market infrastructure were in place, a vehicle’s average magnesium content could increase to as much as 350 lbs. by 2020, replacing heavier components, substantially reducing its weight and ultimately improving its fuel efficiency.
The USAMP study, funded largely by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with the three U.S. automakers, asserts that giving rise to this energy-saving opportunity would require an international effort, with industry suppliers, engineers, manufacturers and governments becoming close collaborators with a common vision and dedicated commitment. The “Magnesium Vision 2020” report also provides a strategic direction to drastically increase magnesium use by identifying a series of topics or themes for research and development activities that would help eliminate barriers and promote more automotive applications.
Despite the technical, infrastructural and cost barriers to increasing the magnesium content in vehicles, USAMP’s “Magnesium Vision 2020” contends that overcoming those barriers would be well worth the effort. Magnesium is among the lightest structural metals known, and the report’s authors are skilled automotive researchers and engineers who say increased magnesium content in automobiles could potentially decrease average vehicle weight by 290 lbs. or more.
“Magnesium has the potential to be a real enabler,” said Dr. Mark Verbrugge, director, General Motors Materials and Processes Laboratory and USAMP steering committee chairman. “It has the ability to enhance design freedom and performance, in addition to reducing mass. Although the challenges to increasing magnesium in automotive applications are significant, the U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership report suggests a united government/industry effort could produce long-term benefits.”
This already was demonstrated when one USCAR/USAMP project led to the implementation of a magnesium engine cradle in GM’s 2006 Chevrolet Corvette Z06. The magnesium cradle is 35 percent lighter than its aluminum predecessor.
Independently, U.S. automakers also have demonstrated magnesium’s functional capabilities in various chassis, interior, exterior and powertrain components, including steering wheel armatures and steering columns, instrument panel cross-car beams, seat frames, front consoles, inner door modules, valve and cam covers, brake and clutch brackets, airbag housings and front end assemblies.
In addition to GM’s Chevrolet Corvette engine cradle, significant magnesium applications among the USCAR/USAMP-member companies include DaimlerChrysler’s seven-speed transmission case and the front-end support assembly in Ford Motor Company’s F-150.
However, a key component to dramatically increasing magnesium use in the automotive sector is developing an enabling infrastructure.
“There currently is no North American industrial champion for magnesium, as there was historically for aluminum, steel or plastic, which is part of the challenge,” said Dr. Joseph Carpenter, U.S. Department of Energy. “And yet there is a strong desire for international collaboration,” he said, citing recent conferences of Canadian, Chinese and U.S. researchers, in which he participated. “We hope the ‘Magnesium Vision 2020’ report will help universities and suppliers recognize and respond to the needs and opportunities identified by industry experts.”
One demonstration of this emerging international collaboration is a new magnesium-for-body-applications project recently begun by USAMP. That program will involve researchers from the United States, Canada and China.
To view the “Magnesium Vision 2020” report, visit the USCAR Web site at http://www.uscar.org/commands/files_download.php?files_id=240.
Founded in 1992, the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) is the umbrella organization for collaborative research among DaimlerChrysler AG, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation. The goal of USCAR is to further strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research and development.
April 16, 2007
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