DOE awards $8 million for R&D into lightweight vehicles

It may be time to put your corporate fleet on a weight-loss program: Cutting 10 percent in weight could improve fuel economy by 6 percent to 8 percent.

Many companies are testing alternate fuels throughout their corporate fleets of delivery trucks, services vehicles and so on.

But as a UPS pilot program with composite vehicles proved earlier this year , there is also plenty of innovation to be had – and fuel to be saved – by making trucks and vans more lightweight.

Reducing the weight of a vehicle by just 10 percent can improve fuel economy by 6 percent to 8 percent.

So it was with interest that I read earlier this week about some investments that the Obama administration plans to make in projects that will help businesses and consumers put their vehicles onto a weight-loss program.

The seven projects being funded with $8 million this year by the Department of Energy include modeling tools that will help create higher performing carbon fiber composites and advanced steels, as well as research and development into high-strength alloys for energy-efficient engines.

Here are the projects being funded, categorized by their primary focus.

Predictive Engineering Tools

  • Pacific Northwest Laboratory ($1 million plus)
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory ($747,820)

Materials Engineering for Development of Advanced Steel

  • United States Automotive Materials Partnership (6 million)

Advanced Alloy Development

  • Ford Motor Co. ($3.29 million)
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory ($3.5 million)
  • General Motors ($3.49 million)
  • Caterpillar ($3.48 million)

The Energy Department has requested another $13.75 million for projects such as theses next year, although that money has to be approved by Congress. In additional to the public money, there's another $11 million in private investment backing this research and development.

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