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Sustainable Product winner: 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning has an extended battery range of up to 320 miles. (Ford)

Altair honors innovations in sustainability and lightweighting

Automakers, suppliers and a university recognized with 2022 Altair Enlighten Awards for eco-conscious, weight-saving initiatives.

Ford follows up its top prize in last year’s Sustainable Product category – for the Mustang Mach-E – with another electric-vehicle winner, the 2022 F-150 Lightning. The battery-electric variant of Ford’s top-selling pickup truck is one of six category winners to be honored at the 10th annual Altair Enlighten Awards conducted in partnership with the Center for Automotive Research (CAR). 

“The caliber of nominees for this year’s Enlighten Award was unparalleled and is a true testament to the investments the automotive industry is making to reach – and even exceed – global sustainability targets,” Richard Yen, Altair’s senior vice president, product and strategy, said during the awards presentation at CAR’s Management Briefing Seminars (MBS) in August. “As we celebrate our tenth year and have evaluated hundreds of worthy entries over the years, we have seen this award evolve from showcasing vehicle lightweighting initiatives to companies now fully embracing sustainability and the commitment to building a net-zero environment and circular economy.”

Media partners for the 2022 Altair Enlighten Awards include SAE International and its Automotive Engineering and Tech Briefs publications, as well as Automobil Industrie. While the awards acknowledge the automotive industry’s best initiatives to reduce vehicle weight and meet emissions targets, they also consider other parameters such as cost reduction, improved performance, part count reduction and applicability to other vehicle programs. The three Sustainability categories also consider progress toward a reduced carbon footprint and factors such as water/energy consumption and material reuse and recycling.

Sustainable Product
The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning with a 131-kWh extended-range battery can travel up to 320 miles (515 km) and deliver a maximum 580 hp and 775 lb-ft (1051 Nm) – the most torque of any F-150 ever. The ability to power a home, if needed, is a bonus. The F-150 Lightning is powered by dual in-board motors and is built on an all-new high-strength steel frame that supports a maximum 2235-lb (1014-kg) payload and towing up to 10,000 lb (4536 kg).

Runner-up: Lack Enterprises’ weight-saving composite wheel technology is recognized in a joint Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report titled “Midterm Evaluation of Light-duty Vehicle Greenhouse Gas Emission Standards and Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for Model Years 2022-2025.” The patented wheel design allows for multiple finishes and designs on the same wheel “backbone,” offering increased trim-level differentiation while saving costs and optimizing aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

Sustainable Process
Nemak’s Melting Center in Monterrey, Mexico, specializes in the production of aluminum-silicon alloys for the automotive industry. Nemak contributes to more sustainable manufacturing by recycling 2.5 billion aluminum cans per year. With a recycling capacity of more than 400,000 tons per year, the process decreases the amount of energy needed to extract primary aluminum by 95%, the company claims, thus eliminating 4.8 million tons of CO2 per year.

Runner-up: ArcelorMittal has launched the first large-scale green trial of hydrogen-based injection in a direct reduced iron (DRI) plant. Through a $10 billion investment plan, ArcelorMittal expects this milestone will propel the future large-scale supply of green steel to automotive OEMs.

Sustainable Material
Ford has implemented an “industry-first application” of 100% post-consumer recycled (PCR) ocean plastic (PA6) into vehicle parts, specifically for wiring harness clips. The material for these clips is collected by workers from plastic waste in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea, promoting a healthier marine environment, reducing landfill waste and energy use, and providing jobs.

Runner-up: Nucor Corp. has introduced what it claims is the world’s first net-zero carbon steel produced at scale, called Econiq. Nucor says it is pioneering the reduction of a vehicle’s carbon footprint without changing the design or grade selection. Currently available to automotive companies, Econiq has a “very high percentage” of recycled content.

Lightweighting Enabling Technology
Shiloh Industries provides Acoustic Patch Laminate (APL) components using targeted noise control for certain General Motors vehicles. Called ShilohCore, the patented laminate provides comparable NVH performance as a fully laminated vehicle material but can reduce the mass of damping treatments by 45% – by up to 2 kg (4.4 lb) per vehicle – lower interior noise by over 2 dB, and cut total cost by 15-20%, according to Steve Lin, director of engineering for Shiloh.

“With a patch laminate, for some of the high frequencies we can go up over 10 dB noise reductions,” Lin said during an MBS session. He noted that BEV transmission gear noise and electric whine noise are prevalent from 1,000 to 5,000 Hz, a range in which ShilohCore “shows excellent STL [sound transmission loss] values.” APL treatment requires early design involvement, Lin added, and is not as flexible for last-minute coverage changes.

Runner-up: Bionic Mesh Design GmbH uses tools from the entertainment industry to redefine lightweight design for mass casting and forging through the direct transformation of topology in CAD models and an emphasis on production processes. By requiring 90% less design time than standard solid modeling processes, Bionic Mesh Design can help compress the product development cycle for automotive OEMs and suppliers.

Runner-up: Human Horizons has incorporated high pressure die casting (HPDC) and heat-free treatment material into the manufacturing of a rear cabin, resulting in up to 20% weight reduction. The HPDC rear cabin has integrated 40 parts of the rear floor into a single part, reducing manufacturing and mold development time by one-third.

Module Lightweighting
Toyota engineers, with help from BASF Corp. and L&L Products, replaced more than 60 stamped and welded steel pieces with only four composite parts in the 2022 Toyota Tundra’s second-row seat structure. This achievement results from the industry’s first use of combining polyurethane pultrusion to add localized stiffness and strength where needed, in conjunction with an injection-molded engineered plastic. These changes in production resulted in 20% mass reductions and 20% cost savings compared to previous generations’ steel seat structure, Vik Bhatia, group manager, engineering design chassis at Toyota Motor NA, said at MBS.

“We simplified the structure,” he said. “A lot of people are touching this seat, meaning the JIT plants in putting everything together. We weren’t only focusing on the customer, which is very important, we were focusing on the people who are putting the seat together, too.” Tundra’s composite seat passes all crash-test requirements.

Runner-up: Bocar Group and Toyota co-developed a “first of its kind” visual class “A” exterior structural die-cast application, for the 2022 Tundra’s rear end post. Integrating multiple steel components into a single aluminum casting results in mass savings of 4.4 kg (9.7 lb) per vehicle – the equivalent to saving 78.9 kg (173.9 lb) of CO2 emissions per vehicle per year.

Future of Lightweighting
Nemak and McMaster University partnered to develop a new high-strength aluminum die-casting alloy that doesn’t require heat treatment, specifically for use in automotive body-in-white and chassis components. NemAlloy belongs to the 7000 series Al-Zn-Mg alloy family more common to aerospace than automotive, Dr. Glenn Byczynski, R&D manager, Nemak USA/Canada, said at MBS. “We needed to go back to base metallurgy and understand casting alloys more fundamentally and how we can bring new value propositions to our customers,” he said. “Along the way we found two different formulations – one that could develop high strength (NemAlloy HS700), which the 7000 series is well known for, but also one that could be high ductility (NemAlloy HE700) without needing heat treatment.”

The F-temper, or as-cast, product develops yield strength in the range of 160-170 MPa, 315 MPa ultimate strength, and elongation above 11%, “which is quite good for an as-cast component,” Byczynski said. “With tweaking the chemistry slightly and adding a heat treatment, if desired, we can really push this to nearly 400-MPa ultimate tensile strength, which is quite good for aluminum alloys.”

Runner-up: Adient has constructed ultra-thin, reinforced automotive seats made of thermoplastic elastomer panels. UltraThin seating can result in 30% overall seat-trim-outline volume reduction, 14% overall mass reduction and 10% reduction in overall seat part count compared to standard foam, trim and comfort systems.

Runner-up: Yanfeng’s instrument panel and passenger air bag (IP PAB) integration combines the chute and airbag module housing into one part to lower costs and create synergies in the development process. Through material substitution and weight savings of 23%, the system reduces the product’s carbon footprint by 50%.

Honorable mention: AMC, csi entwicklungstechnik, DITF and BMW M collaborated to develop a biobased automotive center console. The NaMiKo-Project team combined methodical lifecycle analysis and lightweight design to develop a center console using the “NFK in 3D” filament winding process covered with circular “smart textiles” and bio-based natural fiber composites.

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