FCA, Toyota win awards for innovation in automobile lightweighting

(August 1, 2017) TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — Altair and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) have announced the winners of the 5th annual Altair Enlighten Award, which strives to promote and celebrate innovation in automotive lightweighting. 

The winner of the Full Vehicle category was the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which is an impressive 249 pounds lighter than its predecessor. Toyota’s carbon fiber closure panels for the 2017 Prius Prime and Lexus LC500, and Faurecia’s Adaptive Valve for exhaust systems employed on the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado took the top honors for the module category.

Swedish metal forming specialist AP&T claimed the Enabling Technology category for its innovative aluminum forming technology used on several European vehicles. The awards were presented Mondat at the 2017 CAR Management Briefing Seminars (MBS) in Traverse City, Mich., US.

“For the 5th year, our expanding field of global entries demonstrates an incredibly impressive range of innovations helping to meet the worldwide weight reduction challenges of modern automotive manufacturing,” said judging chair Dr. Jay Baron, president and CEO of CAR, and director of CAR’s Coalition for Automotive Lightweighting Materials.

“FCA, Toyota, Faurecia and AP&T and all our 2017 finalists are contributing to reductions in weight, fuel consumption, and CO2 emissions. The Enlighten Award is an excellent way to highlight and recognize these achievements.”

The FCA team built the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica from the ground up to achieve a lighter vehicle with improved safety, better NVH performance and superior interior space and comfort.. The body system, which shed 168 pounds, utilized high strength steels and large amounts of dual phase and hot stamped material grades for improved impact protection at reduced weight.

Aluminum and cast magnesium were used for the rear sliding door, liftgate and the instrument panel beam, while the front-end module is a steel-plastic overmold to improve part integration and stiffness. Simulation methodologies including topology optimization studies were used throughout the vehicle’s development to ensure a material efficient design.

“The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is our engineering response to the rapidly changing industry climate,” says Phil Jansen, head of Product Development – FCA North America. “Customers are in need of ever-greater efficiency, but not at the expense of functionality. The Pacifica’s spacious package, delivered with a reduction in mass, allows us to exceed expectations.”

For the module category, which focuses on vehicle systems, subsystems and components, the international judging panel could not split the winners, opting to award the top prize to both Toyota and Faurecia. Toyota’s winning entry concerned the side and luggage doors of the 2017 Lexus LC and the liftgate of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime which feature carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) inner panels, combined with aluminum, glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) and polypropylene outers for components that are 47% lighter than conventional metal structures.

“Toyota is excited to offer closure systems that are optimized to the unique mission of each vehicle,” said JP Flaharty, Executive Program Manager at Toyota Motor North America R&D.  “With CFRP applied to the Prius Prime liftgate and the Lexus LC side and luggage doors, our customers can recognize the light touch and high tech appearance of these sophisticated, lightweight door systems.  Our entire development team is honored to receive the Altair Enlighten Award in the module category.”

Faurecia’s winning entry was the Adaptive ValveTM, an offset shaft spring return butterfly valve located in the intermediate pipe of the exhaust system. Its specific purpose is to address NVH concerns caused by cylinder deactivation by presenting the gas flow with a variable restriction. The valve requires less package space than traditional systems and its innovative design reduced the muffler weight of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado by 26.5 pounds.

The Altair Enlighten Award honors the greatest achievements in vehicle weight saving each year to inspire interest from policymakers, educators, students and the public, to create further competition for new ideas in the industry and to provide an incentive to share technological advances. The award is judged by a combination of automotive experts from industry, academia and the engineering media from across the world who debated the merits of each of the 29 finalist.