Development of a Composite Prototype Vehicle Structure 2015-01-0723
Upcoming stringent regulations on emissions and fuel efficiency are driving the automotive industry towards lightweight vehicle design. Thus, a higher share of carbon fiber composite materials in vehicle structures is expected. Current literature addresses development processes of composite components under a limited scope, however the considerations of design parameters used in these studies are inadequate for the realistic development of a full vehicle structure, especially in a resource-constrained development project. In addition, existing vehicle structure design philosophies applied for metal structures cannot be directly ported over for composite design due to differences in material properties, failure modes and design for manufacturing limitations. Thus, an approach to develop a fully functional composite vehicle body with reference to realistic functional and roadworthiness requirements along with process considerations of interlinked relationship between design, simulation, manufacturing and final assembly of the prototype's vehicle structure is introduced. This methodology was applied to develop EVA, a prototype electric taxi concept for tropical megacities. EVA was presented at the Tokyo Motor Show 2013 boasting a body-in-white (BIW) weight reduction of more than 100 kg compared to a series production steel BIW. This paper presents the development process of a fully functional prototype vehicle body taking into account the production process and therefore, provides a versatile guideline for future projects.