A DuPont-sponsored survey to track the impact of the 2025 Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards (CAFE) has found that automakers are focused almost equally on improving battery performance, breakthroughs in combustion engine performance, and lighter materials.
Nearly 700 subscribers to WardsAuto responded to the 2012 survey. DuPont released the results during the recent Center for Automotive Research (CAR)'s Management Briefing Seminar.
The technology improvements respondents said would deliver the greatest impact on fuel economy and CO2 emissions were combustion engine breakthroughs at 28 percent; lighter materials at 23 percent; and battery density, performance, and safety at 20 percent. Materials were broken out into two categories with almost equal importance: lower cost, lightweight materials at 13 percent; and lighter, stronger structural materials at 10 percent. Respondents did not mention specific materials, such as lighter metals or carbon composites and plastics, said a company spokeswoman.
A DuPont-sponsored survey has found that automakers are focused almost equally on improving battery performance, breakthroughs in combustion engine performance, and lighter materials.
Other technology improvement categories were infrastructure, such as recharging stations and alternative fuels, at 15 percent; and diesel emission improvements at 6 percent.
These results were not surprising, Chris Murphy, DuPont's global automotive industry director, told us. "We have a good sense for what new things are being worked on. Materials affect efforts for improving battery density, and breakthroughs going on in engine performance, so we do get involved in battery designs and combustion engine improvements," he said. DuPont provides many materials for automotive applications, including fuel line applications.
To help automotive engineers develop fuel-efficient, low-emission, vehicles while maintaining safety, comfort, performance, and cost goals, the company has organized its automotive materials science and global development teams to focus on specific industry needs across systems. These are lightweighting, engine efficiency, bio-based solutions, electrification, and alternative drive systems. This focus on cross-system needs is in addition to the existing one on vehicle systems, such as the electrical systems team, or the powertrain or interior teams.
For example, lightweighting is important whether it's in the chassis and its components or the powertrain and its components, or in the interior. DuPont's competency, know-how, and materials that can be used in lightweighting the chassis can also be applied in the area of thermal management.
The new matrix focus may help DuPont be more efficient, quicker, and more accurate at converting what the industry says it's looking for into materials that meet its needs, said Murphy. "So we don't just respond to a request for new steering wheel materials. Instead, we look at how we can get materials with a lower environmental footprint. Then we can more quickly look at developing bio-based materials that may apply anywhere in the vehicle, rather than only addressing the perfect material for a steering wheel," he said.