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Out with Heavy Metal

May 11, 2015 in Aluminum, Detroit, DOE, Electric Vehicles, EV News, Fuel Savings, GM, Manufacturing, Michigan, Range Anxiety, Research, Washington, Washington DC

New, high-volume joining process expands use of aluminum in autos

PNNL researcher Yuri Hovanski inspects the quality of the friction stir welding join after the test sheet of aluminum is stamped. PNNL’s new process enables the use of FSW to create all-aluminum auto parts without rivets and fasteners that increase cost and weight. Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Out with Heavy Metal

PNNL researcher Yuri Hovanski inspects the quality of the friction stir welding join after the test sheet of aluminum is stamped. PNNL’s new process enables the use of FSW to create all-aluminum auto parts without rivets and fasteners that increase cost and weight.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Out with Heavy Metal

RICHLAND, Wash. – Researchers have demonstrated a new process for the expanded use of lightweight aluminum in cars and trucks at the speed, scale, quality and consistency required by the auto industry.

The process reduces production time and costs while yielding strong and lightweight parts, for example delivering a car door that is 62 percent lighter and 25 percent cheaper than that produced with today’s manufacturing methods.

In partnership with General Motors, Alcoa and TWB Company LLC, researchers from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have transformed a joining technique called friction stir welding, or FSW. The technique now can be used to join aluminum sheets of varying thicknesses, which is key to producing auto parts that are light yet retain strength where it’s most needed. The PNNL-developed process also is ten times faster than current FSW techniques, representing production speeds that, for the first time, meet high-volume assembly requirements. The advancement is reported in the May issue of the Journal of Materials.

“We looked at the barriers preventing the use of more lightweight alloys in cars, picked what we felt was a top challenge, and then formulated a team that represented the entire supply chain to tackle it,” said Yuri Hovanski, the program manager at PNNL and lead author. “The result is a proven process that overcomes the speed, scale and quality limitations of FSW that previously were showstoppers for the auto industry.”

The two-phase, six-year project is funded by the Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy with in-kind partner contributions from each of the participating companies.

Aluminum can’t take the heat

To create door frames, hoods and other auto parts, sheets of metal are welded together end-to-end into a “tailor-welded blank” which is then cut into appropriate sizes before being stamped into the final shape. This process allows a high degree of customization. For example, a thicker gauge of metal can be used on one side of a car part, where extra strength is needed, joined via a weld to a thinner gauge on the side where it’s not.

Conventional laser welding works great to join varying thicknesses of steel, but can be problematic when applied to aluminum due to the reactivity of molten aluminum to air. Instead, manufacturers today must create several components from single sheets that are then riveted together after being stamped, resulting in additional production steps and more parts that drive up cost and weight.

“Reducing the weight of a vehicle by 10% can decrease fuel consumption by 6%-8%, so the auto industry is very interested in a welding technique such as FSW that is aluminum friendly,” Hovanski said.

Mixed, not melted

A friction-stir welding machine looks and acts like a cross between a drill press and a sewing machine. Lowered onto two metal sheets sitting side-by-side, the “drill bit,” or in this case pin tool, spins against both edges. As it travels along, the pin creates friction that heats, mixes and joins the alloys without melting them. By auto industry production standards, however, the process was too slow – just one-half meter welded per minute – which is why the technique has been used only in niche applications, if at all.

Supply chain success

Hovanski and colleagues at PNNL initially compared several joining techniques before selecting FSW, which was the only one to pass all of GM’s rigorous weld quality specifications. Researchers then conducted a comprehensive series of lab-scale welding tests on aluminum sheets provided by Alcoa.

In all, dozens of unique tool designs with varying shapes, lengths and diameters of the pin were created. These were assessed against a variety of weld parameters, such as the depth, rotation speed and angle of the tool. Through statistical analysis, the team identified the optimal combination of tool specification and weld parameters that could consistently withstand high-speed production demands.

“What we discovered was a win-win,” Hovanski said. “The faster the weld, the better the quality and strength of the join, thus the significant increase in speed.”

PNNL provided the weld and tool specifications to TWB Company and GM. TWB Company then independently welded, formed and analyzed more than 100 aluminum blanks in close coordination with GM, making them the first qualified supplier of aluminum tailor-welded blanks. GM subsequently stamped their first full-sized inner door panel supplied by TWB Company — free of imperfections — from aluminum sheets in varying thicknesses.

Today, TWB Company has a dedicated FSW machine at their production facility in Monroe, MI, built around PNNL’s process that is capable of producing up to 250,000 parts per year. “TWB can now provide aluminum tailor welds not only to GM, but the entire automotive industry,” said Blair Carlson, a group manager at GM who con-conceptualized the project.

Next up

With over two years of funding left, the team continues to collaborate, with a focus on even faster weld speeds and the ability to maneuver around the contours and corners of complex aluminum parts, for which laser welding is not commercially feasible. The team also is modifying FSW to join different alloys, such as automotive-grade aluminum alloys with light, ultra-high strength alloys currently reserved for aerospace applications.

“Going forward, we see this process, and future versions of it, enabling completely novel combinations of materials that will revolutionize material use in the auto industry,” Hovanski said.

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: PNNL.

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Ad Shows 2016 Chevrolet Volt is ‘Tomorrowland’ Today

May 8, 2015 in Congestion, Detroit, Electric Vehicles, EV Incentives, EV News, GM, Manufacturing, Michigan, North America, Volt

Chevrolet built the Express concept in 1987 as part of a project consulting with the federal government about building high-speed, limited access commuter roads open to specialized vehicles. The concept is described as “whisper-quiet” much like the Volt when operating in electric mode. Photo courtesy of GM Ad Shows 2016 Chevrolet Volt is ‘Tomorrowland’ Today

Chevrolet built the Express concept in 1987 as part of a project consulting with the federal government about building high-speed, limited access commuter roads open to specialized vehicles. The concept is described as “whisper-quiet” much like the Volt when operating in electric mode.
Photo courtesy of GM
Ad Shows 2016 Chevrolet Volt is ‘Tomorrowland’ Today

DETROITChevrolet and the upcoming Disney feature, “Tomorrowland,” share a history and future full of possibility, innovation and freedom. “Tomorrow, Today,” celebrates the launch of the next-generation Chevrolet Volt by capturing the spirit of imagination in the process of creating the car of tomorrow.

The spot, which uses a portion of the film’s score, takes place in a design studio at the heart of Tomorrowland as depicted in the film – a space of infinite possibility that embodies the optimism at Chevrolet.

“The Chevrolet archives are full of innovation in the form of sketches, specs and renderings for ‘the car of tomorrow,’” said Paul Edwards, U.S. vice president, Chevrolet Marketing. “This animation reveals how the freedom of imagination helps find new roads in present day as demonstrated in the next-generation Chevrolet Volt – the car of tomorrow, today.”

The spot includes animations based on scans of concepts from the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, Mich. that culminate in bringing the Volt to life.

The five concepts featured are:

  1. Firebird III, which debuted at the 1959 Motorama. It was an extravagant prototype with a fiberglass exterior, seven short wings and tail fins. This vehicle, like both generations of the Volt, allowed drivers to pre-condition the interior temperature before entering the vehicle.
  2. Firebird IV was an experimental car created to highlight what could be possible on automatic highways, including the latest infotainment at the time – in-vehicle television. The vehicle was built for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, which plays a key part in the plot of “Tomorrowland.”
  3. Aerodynamics, also key to the design of the Volt, heavily influenced the design of the Astro II prototype. The vehicle was revealed at the 1968 New York Auto Show and at the time had speculators wondering if it was the next generation of the Corvette.
  4. The 1969 Astro III was a sleek, two-passenger experimental car resembling an executive jet aircraft, even down to its low center of gravity tricycle-type wheel arrangement. The Chevrolet Volt’s battery lowers the vehicle’s center of gravity, enhancing stability and handling in inclement weather.
  5. Chevrolet built the Express concept in 1987 as part of a project consulting with the federal government about building high-speed, limited access commuter roads open to specialized vehicles. The concept is described as “whisper-quiet” much like the Volt when operating in electric mode.

The concepts gradually morph into the battery, the first-generation Volt and finally the next-gen Volt, which drives off from Tomorrowland.

“The spot is a reminder that the Volt realizes a long-held aspiration to make a beautiful, efficient, quiet electric vehicle that is attainable,” Edwards said.

In addition to the broadcast spot, Chevrolet is releasing digital work tied to the film. The next-gen Chevrolet Volt and EN-V concepts will be on the blue carpet at the premiere in The Downtown Disney District in Anaheim, Calif. on May 9.

The all-new Volt is an electric car with extended range, showcasing a sleeker, sportier design that offers 50 miles of EV range, greater efficiency and stronger acceleration. The Volt’s new, efficient propulsion system will offer an estimated total driving range of more than 400 miles. With regular charging, owners can expect to average more than 1,000 miles between gas fill-ups.

Pricing on the 2016 Volt will be as low as $26,495 after the full federal tax credit of $7,500. (Federal tax credit can range from $0 up to $7,500.) In California, the vehicle’s largest market, state residents will be able to purchase the all-new Volt for as low as $24,995 after state and federal incentives. The next-gen model will start at $33,995.

Editors’ note: Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price excludes tax, title, license, dealer fees and optional equipment. Includes dealer freight charges and option package discounts.

Image courtesy of GM Ad Shows 2016 Chevrolet Volt is ‘Tomorrowland’ Today

Image courtesy of GM
Ad Shows 2016 Chevrolet Volt is ‘Tomorrowland’ Today

This article is an EV News Report repost, credit: GM.

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Georgia Power Rolls Out New Statewide EV Fleet

May 7, 2015 in Atlanta, Electric Vehicles, Electrification, EV Campaigns, EV charging, EV Fleet, EV Incentives, EV News, Georgia, GM, North America, Volt

Dozens of plug-in electric Chevy Volts to hit roadways across the state demonstrating flexibility of driving electric

Photo courtesy of Georgia Power Georgia Power rolls out new statewide EV fleet

Photo courtesy of Georgia Power
Georgia Power rolls out new statewide EV fleet

ATLANTA - As the early summer sun rose on the parking lot of Georgia Power headquarters in Atlanta this morning (5-6-15), hundreds of Georgia Power employees, community and business leaders gathered for a special event around a glistening new fleet of plug-in electric hybrid Chevy Volts.

Georgia Power Chairman, President & CEO Paul Bowers was joined by Commissioner Tim Echols of the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) and Michael Beinenson of the EV Club of the South to mark the addition of 32 new electric vehicles (EVs) to the company’s fleet.

“We are leading by example and demonstrating to our customers, and other Georgia businesses, that electric transportation works for all drivers,” said Bowers at the event. “Through constructive regulation, and partnerships with organizations like the EV Club of the South, we are growing the EV market in Georgia and helping our customers reap the overwhelming benefits of driving electric.”

Bowers also noted Commissioner Echols’ leadership in increasing awareness of EVs in Georgia, including support and involvement in the annual Alternative Fuel Vehicle Roadshow each June.

The new, Georgia Power-branded Chevy Volts will be highly visible in local communities from Savannah to Columbus to Rome and will be driven daily by Georgia Power employees as they serve customers. The EVs will be used primarily by the company’s energy efficiency experts as they travel to conduct energy audits at homes and businesses, a service provided to help Georgia Power customers save money and energy.

In 2014, Georgia Power launched a new electric transportation initiative to advance Georgia as an exceptionally EV-friendly state through its Get Current. Drive Electric.™ program. The program currently includes an ongoing public education campaign, EV charger rebates for business and residential customers and special rates and charging options for EV customers.

Georgia Power is dedicated to developing products and services which meet the needs of customers, including an increasing interest in EVs and electric transportation options. For additional information about driving electric with Georgia Power, including available rebate programs and resources such as an interactive savings calculator, visit www.GeorgiaPower.com/EV.

This article (5-6-15) is an EV News Report repost, credit: Georgia Power.