Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Lightweight Materials research and development activities focus on the development and validation of advanced materials and manufacturing technologies to significantly reduce light and heavy duty vehicle weight without compromising other attributes such as safety, performance, recyclability, and cost.
Because it takes less energy to accelerate a lighter vehicle, replacing cast iron and traditional steel components with lightweight materials can directly reduce fuel consumption. It also allows cars to carry advanced emissions control equipment, safety devices, and integrated electronic systems without becoming heavier. Lightweight materials are especially important for improving the efficiency and range of hybrid electric, plug-in hybrid electric, and electric vehicles because they offset the weight of power systems such as batteries and electric motors.
In the short term, vehicle weight reduction can be achieved by replacing heavy steel components with materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum, magnesium or polymer composites. While the properties of these materials are well established, better and more cost effective technologies and processes are needed for manufacturing, joining, modeling, and recycling. To better understand the properties of these materials and the processes required to maximize their benefits, ORNL conducts lightweight materials research in several areas: materials development, properties and manufacturing, computational materials science, and multi-material enabling.