Structural Thermoplastics for Vehicles

NCMS Project #: 141017

Problem: It is well understood that in the commercial automotive industry, vehicle weight impacts fuel economy, vehicle emissions, tire wear, suspension life, and more.  In addition, working with heavy parts and materials is a drain on maintenance activities and produces more injuries in the depot environment.  Lightweight composite materials are often sought out by both commercial automotive and defense industries to solve their respective weight issues.  Despite the known benefits of lightweight composite materials, these materials are often passed over during trade-studies in favor of metals due to some common barriers to implementation. 

Benefit: As the commercial automotive and marine industries adopt this technology, the public will benefit from lighter weight, more fuel-efficient automobiles, heavy trucks, and boats. Moreover, as these lighter weight vehicles age, the thermoplastic composite structures will be completely resistant to corrosion and rust issues experienced by the current fleet of metal vehicles in the U.S.

Solution/Approach: The project will leverage recent breakthroughs in materials science and manufacturing to strategically address these historical barriers to implementation.  The intent is to develop lightweight, corrosion resistant thermoplastic composite structures using economical materials and manufacturing processes, thereby reducing vehicle weight and easing maintenance and sustainment burdens in commercial automotive, commercial marine, and defense industries.

Impact on Warfighter:

  • Improve durability and lifespan
  • Reduce maintenance activities and costs
  • Lower fuel usage and carbon emissions
  • Increase mission success

DOD Participation:

  • U.S. Army
  • U.S. Navy (observer)
  • U.S. Marine Corps (observer)

Industry Participation:

  • The University of Maine
  • NCMS

Benefit Area(s):

  • Cost savings
  • Maintenance avoidance and reliability
  • Durability
  • Reliability improvement
  • Lightweighting

Focus Area:

  • Reliability improvement