The state of Michigan is looking at ways that it can help bring new lightweight composites and other materials to market for the auto industry.
The new effort will take aim at materials being researched at universities, government laboratories and other development groups, said Martin Do- ber, vice president of new markets for the Michigan Economic Development Corp., in an Aug. 7 interview at the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
We're just starting to look at our strategies in that area, Dober said. The development thrust wants to see new technology brought to the state, much as it has invested in lithium-ion battery and electric vehicle production, he said.
Lightweight material will go hand-in-hand with electric-powered vehicles because automakers will need to take weight out of their cars to make them go further on less energy whether that energy comes from gasoline or batteries.
Michigan is not alone in investing in lightweight materials: Toyota Motor Corp. of Toyota City, Japan, is progressing in its research into using thermoplastic composites in structural parts, said Justin Ward, advanced powertrain program manager at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, Calif. The center is part of the research and de- velopment division of Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing North America Inc., Toyota's U.S. subsidiary based in Erlanger, Ky.
The automaker, which used a carbon fiber composite on its 1/X concept car in 2007, will be using those composites as part of a complete process and not merely a replacement part for the sake of decreasing weight. It still has to make sense in terms of cost and the total package. How is the processability? Ward said.
When we're comfortable with those questions, then we'll see [it] make it into the market.
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