The only blip on Tesla’s radar over the past year or so has been that pesky battery fire problem. While these incidents have made for some spectacular videos, the truth is that they occur in statistically minimal amounts. However, Tesla’s known for their innovation and attention to detail, and considering the coverage this issue has gotten, it’s no surprise that they’ve responded quickly – and aluminum is part of the solution. From CleanTechnica:
In response to two road debris-induced road fires that were front page news, Elon Musk announced the Tesla Model S will get a titanium-reinforced underbody shield. That should silence the haters and doubters who thought the Tesla was a firetrap.
All new Tesla Model S sedans built after March 6th have been equipped with the new battery shield, and existing Model S customers can get the upgrade, free of charge. The battery shield consists of three separate layers of aluminum and titanium designed to deflect and absorb energy from road debris before it ever reaches the battery pack.
Head over to CleanTechnica for videos of this new shield in action. If this issue was causing you to hesitate on purchasing a Tesla, the new shield might just change your mind.
Tesla was just the start. Ford was the next domino to fall. Now, America’s other big auto manufacturer is ready to follow suit. General Motors must think aluminum is a good idea, because a report from the Wall Street Journal states that the company wants most of their truck fleet to have aluminum bodies by 2018.
General Motors Co. GM +0.66% is accelerating efforts to field a largely aluminum-bodied pickup truck by late 2018, under pressure from federal fuel efficiency standards and archrival Ford Motor Co. F +0.17% , according to people familiar with the matter.
The No. 1 U.S. auto maker recently locked-in supply contracts with Alcoa Inc. AA +4.56% and Novelis Inc., which are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the next-generation GM pickup, the people said. Aluminum sheet for automotive bodies is in such high demand that companies need to order it years in advance.
The push to develop what the industry calls an “aluminum intensive” large pickup marks an apparent change of direction for GM, which has pursued smaller and lighter weight steel-bodied trucks.
The article goes on to state that Chrysler, the other member of Detroit’s Big Three, is looking to increase fuel efficiency by looking at other options: transmission mechanics, axle efficiency, and gasoline options. From our perspective, though, we’re inviting them to come take a look at the aluminum revolution — we think they’ll be pleased with what they find.
Tesla’s Model S may have been 2012’s Car Of The Year, but the folks at Volkswagen think they’ve got another industry changer — and once again, aluminum is a big part of it. The Volkswagen XL1 is still an experimental vehicle, one that will see limited production over the 2013 calendar year, though it’s certainly notable for its eye-popping 261 MPG. That’s two gallons of fuel required to drive between the Bay Area and Los Angeles. It also features an all-electric mode that supports a range of 31 miles.
The XL1 weighs in at approximately 1700 lbs — in comparison, the Model S weighs in at 4600 lbs while the Toyota Prius comes in at 2900 lbs. This mass savings stems from a variety of design choices, including heavy use of aluminum and composite (carbon fiber-reinforced plastic) as primary materials construction. From Plastics Today:
A total of 21.3% of the new XL1, or 169 kg, consists of CFRP. In addition, Volkswagen uses lightweight metals for 22.5% of all parts (179 kg). Only 23.2% (184 kg) of the new XL1 is constructed from steel. The rest of its weight is distributed among various other polymers (e.g. polycarbonate side windows), metals, natural fibers, process materials and electronics.
Thanks to CFRP, the XL1 is not only light in weight but also very safe as well. This is due in part to the high-strength and yet lightweight CFRP monocoque. In an emergency, it provides driver and passenger with the necessary survival space. The intelligent design of the load paths, including the use of sandwich structures in the monocoque, is responsible for this. In addition, the aluminum structures of the front and rear sections absorb the majority of the impact energy.
These principles were likewise implemented in the design of the CFRP doors, where an aluminum absorbing beam is responsible for the absorption of the energy; moreover, a stiff CFRP door frame minimizes the intrusions into the CFRP safety cell. The rescue of the passengers was also given a great deal of attention: In case the XL1 overturns and comes to a rest on the roof, pyrotechnical separating screws facilitate the opening of the doors (swing doors).
Of course, the XL1 isn’t going to be available at your local VW dealer. Only 250 vehicles will be produced in 2013, primarily for the European market. Still, with the world’s focus on fuel efficiency, it makes sense that this concept car may go from a mid-2000s pipe dream to occupying dealership space at a lot near you…someday.