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Brussels, September 26, 2000

Commission supports European research for super-economical car

Keywords: transport, fuel economy, lightweight materials

Earlier this year, before the recent protests over fuel prices and the growing realisation of just how dependent we are on petrol and diesel fuel, the European Commission co-financed a 5 million industrial research project on lightweight materials for use in car manufacturing as part of an overall strategy on improving fuel economy and reducing emissions. Lightweight materials are one of the keys to low fuel consumption and one result of the project could be a prototype car travelling 100 km on just one litre of diesel fuel - perhaps as early 2004. "This research project is a joint, Europe-wide effort by the car industry, research laboratories and materials producers to give at least a partial answer to the question of Europe's dependence on oil," said the EU's Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin.

The project, "Technologies for carbon fibre reinforced, modular, automotive structures" (Tecabs), could revolutionise the way the cars are produced and assembled. It is based on work on light-weight materials carried out by the EU's research programme for Competitive and Sustainable Growth (part of the Fifth Framework Programme for research and development) under its key action on land transport and marine technologies.

First, the use of low-cost carbon composites reduces the vehicle's weight by about 40%, improving fuel economy and reducing CO2 emissions dramatically. Then, using complex multifunctional parts and innovative joining technologies, the number of parts used to build a car can be reduced to just 30% of the 200+ parts needed today. The reduction in the number of parts is key to making this car concept cost effective, as the costs per part are expected to be higher than for conventional manufacturing. The Tecabs project will develop and test the technologies and methods necessary for commercial production at a rate of 50 units/day.

Volkswagen, the project co-ordinator, intends to use the results to help develop ultra-lightweight cars, whose fuel consumption, they believe, could be reduced to around 1 litre/100 km (284 mpg).

In addition to Tecabs, EU-funded projects on smaller petrol engines, such as GET-CO2, could reduce their fuel consumption by 30%. Even higher fuel efficiency could be achieved through the use of fuel-cell powered vehicles - another area of research financed by the European Union (see press release on European fuel cell research.) It is the combination of more efficient power-trains and lighter bodies that will achieve the significant economies predicted by Volkswagen.

This co-ordinated European research effort, which includes developing advanced materials and power-trains, is a good example of what can be achieved at a European level to resolve economic and environmental problems directly affecting the daily life of European citizens.

For further information, please contact:

Christos Tokamanis, Head of Unit, Research DG
Fax: +32 2 29 63307

Stephen Gosden , Press Officer, Research DG
Fax: + 32 2 29 58220

Technologies for carbon fibre reinforced modular automotive structures (Tecabs)

Objective: Low cost (heavy tow) carbon composite automotive structures will allow to reduce the weight of a "Body-in-White" (BIW) by 50%. For the whole vehicle the reduction could be 40%, resulting in vast reduction of CO2 emissions from automotive transport. Using complex shaped multifunctional parts and joining technologies, the number of parts can be reduced to 30% of the present 200+. This reduction of parts makes this car concept cost effective, even if the manufacturing costs per part are still expected to be higher. The project will develop the technologies and methods that enable realisation of this vehicle concept in 50 units/day commercial car production: high speed low cost RTM (resin transfer moulding) processes and cost effective/high speed pre-form (reducing waste from 40% to 5%) and resin technologies; simulation technologies of static/crash behaviour and economic & environmental performance; design solution modular methodology to translate performance requirements into feasible part concepts using these new technologies. The project results in each of these exploitable technologies and validates the integrated achievement by means of testing a full scale multifunctional floor pan under various conditions including crash and modal vibration.

Project Cost: 5.26 million euros

Project Funding: 2.70 million euros

Volkswagen AG Germany
Engineering System International SA France
Institut Fuer Verbundwerkstoffe Gmbh Germany
Saertex Wagener Gmbh & Co KG Germany
Advanced Technologies Research Institute SL Spain
Alusuisse Airex AG Switzerland
DaimlerChrysler AG Germany
Regienov - Renault Recherche et Innovation France
Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Techniques et des Mines de Douai France
K.U. Leuven Research & Development Belgium
Volvo Car Corporation Sweden
Sotira SA France
Association Pour la Recherche et le Développement des Méthodes et Processus Industriels France
Royal Institute Of Technology Sweden
Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne Switzerland
Engineering System International Gmbh Germany

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PRESS RELEASES | 26.09.2000