With the above material selection criteria as background, in this section we discuss some possible future scenarios for materials used in automobiles. The scenarios attempt to characterize the automotive materials innovations that may become commercially available in the years 2005 and 2015, assuming two different levels of technological optimism: “advanced conventional” and “optimistic.”
Advanced conventional involves adoption of materials and manufacturing processes that appear to be straightforward extensions of those currently under R&D. Optimistic involves materials and manufacturing processes that may require significant breakthroughs by the years indicated, but nevertheless appear feasible with a concentrated R&D effort.
Extra features of vehicles
The scenarios discussed below are illustrative only, and are not intended to represent OTA’s forecast of the probable evolution of vehicle materials technology. In fact, it is arguable that they are quite unrealistic: it seems unlikely that the automakers would rely as much on a single material as the scenarios would suggest.
Rather, it seems more likely that vehicle components will continue to be constructed from whichever materials (iron, steel, aluminum, plastic, and composites) give the best combination of cost and performance. Nevertheless, the scenario approach adopted here is analytically simple and gives a good indication of the largest weight reductions that might be achieved through the use of alternative materials.
The analysis focuses on a typical mid-size five-passenger car (e.g., a Ford Taurus) which currently weighs about 3,200 pounds. A breakdown of the estimated weights of the various subcomponents of the Taurus (circa 1990) is presented in table 3-3.