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International Conference on Advancements and Futuristic Trends in Mechanical and Materials Engineering (October 5-7, 2012)

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Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar-Kapurthala Highway, Kapurthala, Punjab-144601 (INDIA)


FUEL EFFICIENT LIGHT-WEIGHT CARS USING COMPOSITE
MATERIALS
Inderdeep Singh
Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering,
Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee 247667, INDIA
Email: inderfme@iitr.ernet.in

ABSTRACT

The escalating fuel prices in the present scenario have challenged the engineers and scientists to work overtime in
the pursuit of designing and developing fuel efficient vehicles. Moreover the stringent environmental legislation
regarding the emission norms has placed the mechanical and materials engineers in the state of urgency. The
increased volume of traffic on the roads has necessitated the need for light-weight vehicles which are fuel efficient
and environmental friendly. The present article focuses on the global concerns regarding the oil conservation and
highlights the importance of composite materials as a candidate material for manufacturing of fuel efficient light-
weight vehicles.

Introduction

Threatened by a global ecological, environmental
and energy crisis, worldwide governmental
regulations are challenging manufacturers to achieve
all-time high standards of sustainability and eco-
efficiency [1]. The recent developments in the world
economy and the variability in the prices of the crude
oil have led to a significant increase in the oil prices
in the domestic market. With each passing day, the
number of vehicles on road, especially passenger cars
has increased manifold. This increase in the number
of vehicles does not only require higher quantity of
fuel but it also threatens the environment.
The increased sales volume of the passenger cars
is an indicator of the economic development and has
to be considered as a positive sign. The issues related
to the increased volume of traffic have to be
addressed holistically. There is an imminent need to
address the issues related to oil conservation and
environmental effects of increased volume of traffic.
There has been a sustained effort by the various
governments around the world towards conserving
the natural resources such as oil. Various schemes
and regulations have been proposed and implemented
for tackling the important issue.
The issue of oil conservation and mitigation of the
environmental effects of increased traffic can broadly
be addressed in two ways. The first approach can be
the sensitization of the public leading to self-restraint
among the people regarding judicious use of the fuel
oil. There have been many state run campaigns,
educating people regarding the need and advantages
of oil conservation. The Petroleum Conservation
Research Association (PCRA) has led the campaign
for addressing the issues and challenges in the field
of petroleum conservation. During the Oil and Gas
Conservation Fortnight (OGCF), many programs are
organized which aim at highlighting the importance
of oil conservation among school children.
The second approach is the development of
technologies which can lead to improved fuel
efficiency and minimize wastage of important natural
resources such as oil. One of the important steps is
the research and development in the field of
unconventional sources of energy. These sources
have a proven potential to replace the conventional
petroleum based non-renewable sources of energy.
The efforts have been noted worlwide in the direction
of development of technologies related to renewable
sources of energy.
Another important research area of paramount
importance is the materials science and engineering.
The ever challenging design guidelines have placed
unusually stringent requirements on the material
scientists and engineers. In the light of the ongoing
discussion, there is a need to design and develop
novel materials which can lead to manufacturing of
fuel efficient and light weight cars. Developments
have been reported worlwide focussing on the
International Conference on Advancements and Futuristic Trends in Mechanical and Materials Engineering (October 5-7, 2012)

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Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar-Kapurthala Highway, Kapurthala, Punjab-144601 (INDIA)


conceptualization and development of light-weight
cars. The need of the light weight vehicles has been
emphasized by the great men like Henry Ford as Fat
men cannot run as fast as thin men, but we build most
of our vehicles as though deadweight fat increased
speed. I cannot imagine where the delusion that
weight means strength came from..
Fuel economy has become a priority for car
buyers around the globe and automotive OEMs have
intensified their efforts to lightweight their products
for improved mileage. The benefits of composites are
looking better than ever to car makers (Richard
Steward, Reinforced Plastics, March 2009). The
drive toward smaller, lighter, more energy-efficient
vehicles continues as consumers push for 'greener'
but not necessarily smaller vehicles, while
government regulators demand ever higher fuel
economy, performance and lower carbon dioxide
emissions. (Automotive Composites offer lighter
solutions, Reinforced Plastics, March 2010).
It has been established that lighter cars are fuel
efficient and pose lower risk to the environment. The
composites family has provided numerous solutions
to the manufacturers of the automobiles for reducing
the weight of their products. Within the composites
family, the present trend is towards the
conceptualization and processing of fully bio-
degradable composites. The bio-degradable
composites not only address the fuel efficiency issue
by reducing the weight but also prove to be a greener
alternative to many conventional materials. These
composites have shown tremendous potential and are
currently being used in many high end cars. Some of
the noteworthy applications of composites are door
panels, floor panels, seat covering and back rest.
Advanced composites, such as carbon fiber
reinforced composite is a substitute for steel in
vehicle structures but high cost of the raw materials
(~$1122/kg vs. ~$1.3/kg for steel) and the high
labor required to produce advanced composite parts
limit its application [4].
Bio-composites: Feasible Solution for Light
Weight Requirement
New environmental regulations and societal concerns
have triggered the search for new products and
processes that are compatible with the environment.
The incorporation of bio-resources into composite
materials can reduce dependency on petroleum
reserves. Bio- composites are an emerging area in the
composite science and engineering. Due to the light
weight, low cost, high strength to weight ratio,
corrosion resistance and other advantages, natural
fiber based composites are becoming important
composite materials in automobile, building and civil
engineering fields. Plant fibers have recently attracted
the attention of researchers and technologists because
of the several advantages over many conventional
petroleum based composites and for the past few
years, serious attention is being paid in the
development of green composites. These natural fiber
based green composites came into existence after a
lot of R&D efforts [5,6]. Most of the bio-composites
are fabricated using the same processing technique
with little or no modification as used for traditional
synthetic fiber reinforced polymer matrix composites.
The manufacturing processes are broadly classified
as open mold process and closed mold process. Hand
lay up, spray up, tape layup, filament winding and
autoclave method come under open mold processes.
The compression molding, injection molding and
transfer molding are closed mold processes for
manufacturing of composites.
Applications of Natural Fiber Composites:
Natural fiber composites are being extensively used
throughout the world in the wide range of
applications like automobiles, infrastructure,
furniture etc. Due to light weight characteristics,
automotive industry is the one which has made
extensive use of the natural-fiber reinforced
composites (NFRCs) and has developed various new
components based on NFRCs. The weight of the
automotive body has direct influence on fuel
economy. In Europe, plant fiber composites are
mainly used by the automotive industry. The total
reported use of natural fibers was around 4.0 ktonne
International Conference on Advancements and Futuristic Trends in Mechanical and Materials Engineering (October 5-7, 2012)

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Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar-Kapurthala Highway, Kapurthala, Punjab-144601 (INDIA)


in 1996 and this had increased to more than 21
ktonne by 1999, reported by the suppliers to the
European automotive industry [7]. Projections for
2005 and 2010 suggest that the total application of
bio-fibers in the European automotive sector could be
more than 100,000 ktonne by 2010 [8]. Daimler
Chrysler's innovative application of abaca fiber in
exterior under-floor protection for passenger cars has
been recently recognized [9]. Nowadays, 27
components of a car are manufactured from bio-fiber
reinforced composites for the newest Mercedes S
class [7]. An important step towards higher
performance applications was achieved with the door
panels of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (figure 1). The
wood fiber materials previously used for the door
panels was replaced by a plant fiber-reinforced
material consisting of a flax/sisal fiber mat embedded
in an epoxy resin matrix. A remarkable weight
reduction of about 20% was achieved, and the
mechanical properties, important for passenger
protection in the event of an accident, were also
improved. Furthermore, the flax/sisal material can be
molded in complicated 3-dimensional shapes, thus
making it more suitable for door trim panels than the
previously used materials [10].

Figure 1 Plant fiber applications in the current Mercedes-Benz E-Class [10]
A dais-deck assembly shown in figure 2 completely
made of polyester/jute composite was displayed in
international conference and exhibition on reinforced
plastics (ICERP 2011) at Bombay exhibition centre,
NSE complex, Goregaon, Mumbai, India. This
assembly was aesthetically excellent reflecting the
texture same as that of the costly wooden products.
The demand for agricultural products will increase
due to the use of such materials as a cost-effective
alternative to wood and petro-based plastic products.
These type of materials can also act as substitutes for
various automobile parts and components in near
future.
International Conference on Advancements and Futuristic Trends in Mechanical and Materials Engineering (October 5-7, 2012)

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Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar-Kapurthala Highway, Kapurthala, Punjab-144601 (INDIA)



Figure 2 Application of Jute fiber reinforced plastics in civil infrastructure
Conclusion:
The primary aim of the article is to highlight the
concern of the mechanical and materials engineering
fraternity regarding the utilization of the petroleum
based resources such as oil. The worldwide focus is
on the utilization of the composite materials in the
automotive sector for better fuel efficiency. Different
types of composites have found a varied application
spectrum in the automobiles. The need for
environment friendly materials has been highlighted
along with the applications in the auotmobile sector.
References:
1. I. Singh, P. K. Bajpai, D. Mallik, A.K. Sharma, P.
Kumar, Feasibility Study on Microwave Joining of
Green Composites, Akademeia (2011) 1(1): ea101.
2. Richard Stewart, Composites Help Light Weight The
Automotive Market, Reinforced Plastics, March, 2009.
3. Richard Stewart, Automotive Composites Offer
Lighter Solutions, Reinforced Plastics, March 2010.
4. David R. Cramer, David F. Taggart, Design and
Manufacture of an Affordable Advanced-Composite
Automotive Body Structure, Proceedings of the 19th
International Battery, Hybrid and Fuel Cell Electric
Vehicle Symposium & Exhibition. Copyright 2002 EVS-
19,
http://www.interleafcomposites.com/revolutioncomposit
es.pdf.
5. L.T. Drzal, A. K. Mohanty, G. Mehta, M. Misra, Low-
Cost, Bio-Based Composite Materials For
Housing Applications, Advances in Building
Technology, Volume 1, 2002, 225-232.
6. S. H. Lee, S. Wang, Biodegradable polymers/bamboo
fiber biocomposite with bio-based coupling agent,
Composites Part A: Applied Science and
Manufacturing, 37, 2006, 8091.
7. K.L. Pickering, Properties and performance of
natural-fiber composites Woodhead Press, (2008).
8. A.K. Mohanty, Manjusri Misra, L.T. Drzal, Natural
Fibers, Biopolymers, and Bio-composites CRC Press,
2005; Tailor & Francis.
9. Daimler Chrysler awarded for banana fiber use in
Mercedes A Class', http://
www.netcomposites.com/news.
10. T. G. Schuh, Renewable Materials for Automotive
Applications,
http://www.ienica.net/fibersseminar/schuh.pdf.