Material Technology


Driver description
Interactions with the Technology Domain
Interactions within the Social Domain
Interactions with the Economy Domain
Interactions with the Environment Domain
Impacts on Mobility and Transport

Driver description

  • “Materials and design are key technologies in the automotive industry.” (Ref: CO_0058)
  • “Over the coming decades motor vehicles will embody completely new engine technologies, material technologies, and electrical/ignition systems.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Nanotechnologies are especially relevant because with decreasing size the properties of materials change. (...) Examples include nanotechnologies for energy conversion and storage (for example dye-based solar power cells); replacement of toxic materials; new, lighter materials; and environmental remediation technologies (UBA, 2010).” (Ref: CO_0274)
  • “Besides the advancement in steel body design (short and medium-term), construction methods with fibre- reinforced high performance plastics and multi material design will be able to play an important role in a long term.” (Ref: CO_0058)
  • “Light composite structures can be even stronger than steel, although the assessment of the robustness of composites to accidental impacts is more difficult than for traditional metals. The manufacturing technology for strong, lightweight composite materials is still accomplished largely by hand and costs are prohibitive.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “The choice for light weight materials depends besides the mechanical properties on expected production volume, markets (material availability), vehicle use, customers and performance-cost-balance.” (Ref: CO_0058)
  • “Much research needs to be done on the feasibility of automated manufacturing processes for new materials. Nevertheless, materials technology and its application to transportation in terms of motor body construction and for components is a key area for research in both the United States and Japan.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “The main areas of technological innovation in the aerospace sector are aerodynamics, materials, engines, avionics and electronics, design and manufacturing technologies, maintenance and repair, and safety.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “The use of advanced materials such as carbon fibre composites can dramatically reduce aircraft weight. These composites can be used throughout the aircraft, from the airframe to the brakes and can generate weight savings as high as 20%.” (Ref: CO_0019)
  • “Several key technologies are expected to transform shipbuilding in the future – advanced materials, embedded information and communications technologies, advanced hydrodynamic design, engine technologies derived from the experience gained in the aerospace industry, and new technologies that assist maintenance and repair.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “There is much greater potential for mass reduction in passenger trains than in freight trains since the weight of passengers is very low compared to the weight of the train. New materials and new designs such as wide or double-decker trains have the potential to reduce mass-per-seat by more than 35%.” (Ref: CO_0019)
  • “Europe has about 5.5 million km of roads and most (90%) are made of asphalt. We all know a bad road when we drive on one so this is why billions of euros are spent each year digging them up and replacing them. Both industry and governments recognise the potential environmental costs of road building. (...). It is often simply cheaper to extract new aggregate and bituminous binders than recycle it. (...). According to the Re-Road[1] project it should be possible to increase the use of recycled asphalt to as much as 99%. (...) The major concern of the project however, is to look for ways to reduce consumption of natural aggregates and decrease amounts of waste produced when roads are rebuilt.” (Ref: CO_0019)


Interactions within the Technology Domain

Traction technologies

  • “The challenges in lightweight design for innovative vehicle concepts are amplified by the ongoing electrification of the drivetrain. For electric vehicles, due to the weight and volume of the batteries on the one hand, and the substitution of mechanical drive train components through electric motor specific elements on the other hand, the boundary conditions for lightweight architecture have completely changed and the importance of lightweight materials and design will increase.” (Ref: CO_0058)
  • “The IEA is sponsoring research on the development of revolutionary materials (structural ceramics and ceramic matrix composites) for operation at higher temperatures and pressure. Hard, wear-resistant, durable and insulating ceramic coatings are an expanding technology for improving the durability, reliability, and efficiency of diesel and turbine engines for automotive and industrial power.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Fuel cell durability is a critical element in the life-cycle cost of fuel cell application. In mobile applications a life of 3000-5000 hours for cars and up to 20,000 hours for buses is required.(...) Fundamental fuel cell design changes, such as different membrane materials and new high-temperature catalyst materials, may increase durability.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Carbon composites are already used in products such as sports equipment, aircraft and some high-performance sports cars to provide strength and reduce weight in the products. They tend not to be employed in mass-produced vehicles yet because of current high costs. According to Emile Greenhalgh of Imperial College, London and the project’s coordinator, this could change if the composites can also be used to provide power to the vehicle. < “It could mean that we can get rid of the batteries altogether and power an electric car just from its body work >, he says.” The technology relies on carbon composites acting as super-capacitors to deliver power. The strength of the material and the fact that it can be moulded into any shape could make it ideal for car body parts. Both batteries and super-capacitors store energy. However, that is just about where the similarity ends. Batteries store energy chemically which is then converted to electrical energy. This is a relatively slow process but it means lots of power can be delivered over a sustained period. Super-capacitors meanwhile store electrical charge in a layer of ions absorbed on a carbon sur face. As there is no chemical reaction, charging can be very quick and recent developments mean that charge can be delivered quickly and stored for much longer. (Ref: CO_0258)

Energy efficiency

  • “By 2015, new car fuel consumption can be reduced by up to 25% at low cost by fully exploiting available technologies.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “The utilisation of new vehicle body materials, such as carbon-fibre or other composite materials, and also lighter metal alloys should increase energy efficiency by reducing mass, and at the same time have a lower energy-content in their production. The extensive use of aluminium and other light-weight materials in suspension and other components (such as brake fittings, sway bars, and wheels) can also improve energy efficiency.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “(...) new materials technology offers the scope for increased energy efficiencies in transportation. The use of lightweight metal alloys and composite materials was pioneered by the aerospace industry and is now being taken up by motor vehicles and other transport equipment. Further development is occurring in lightweight metal alloys, while composites are undergoing development both in terms of materials design and in manufacturing technology. Other areas of technological development include structural ceramics, ceramic matrix composites, ceramic coatings, surface engineering to improve resistance to wear and contact damage, and protective coating systems. Synergies in materials technology can be obtained because of its use across such sectors as transport equipment, other manufactured equipment and structural engineering.” (Ref: CO_0272)
  • “Expected fuel savings from the increased use of fuel efficient tyres which will be achieved by the combination of tyre rolling resistance limits (Regulation (EC) No 661/2009) and the labelling scheme (Regulation (EC) No 1222/2009) are estimated at between 2.4 and 6.6 Mtoe (million tonnes of oil equivalent) in 2020 depending on the speed of market transformation. The CO2 savings from all vehicle types are expected to range from 1.5 to 4 million tonnes per year.” (Ref: CO_0250)

Interactions with the Social Domain

No particularly relevant interrelationships have been found.

Interactions with the Economy Domain

Regional differences in economics

  • “(...), crucial mineral sources for new technologies tend to be very unevenly distributed over the globe. For example, more than half of the world's stock of lithium, a metal at present essential for hybrid and full‑electrical cars, is believed to be located in Bolivia, with huge economic potential.” (Ref: CO_0274)

Interactions with the Environment Domain

GHG mitigation

  • “In order to reduce carbon emission of the vehicles and therefore to achieve the stringent emission targets (...), car manufacturers are intensifying their efforts to decrease car weight. This trend requires the development of new lightweight material concepts and architectures.” (Ref: CO_0058)
  • “A realistic long-term objective would be to cap the level of GHG emissions arising for air transport. The prospects for reduced emissions-intensities in air transport are quite good, building on the experience of recent decades. Innovation rates in aerospace are high, and continuing improvements in aero-engine and lightweight materials technologies should facilitate continuing reductions in emissions intensities.” (Ref: CO_0272)

Noise level and emissions standards

  • “The limits in the EU Tyre/road directive need to be tightened if new technology is to be promoted.” (Ref: CO_0151)

Pollution levels and emissions standards

  • “Yet scientific committees in Europe and elsewhere, for example the US National Research Council, have expressed major concerns about the environmental and health issues arising from new technologies (SCENIHR, 2009). For instance, the rapid transformation that nanoparticles could undergo when released into the natural environment may render traditional approaches to describing air or water quality inadequate (RCEP, 2008). Currently, there is an increasing gap between the need for and the availability of relevant data and testing methods to understand, for example, the toxicology and exposure paths of novel materials in the environment (McGarvin, 2010).” (Ref: CO_0274)

Energy availability, production and consumption

  • “The materials used in an average vehicle – glass, steel, aluminium and plastics – are highly energy-intensive. Moreover, traditional materials technology in vehicles is well short of optimal for recurrent vehicle energy consumption.” (Ref: CO_0272)

Impacts on Mobility and Transport

New materials will impact transport sector in terms of lighter vehicles that in principle may provide an increase in speed, allowing people to move even faster that today. But they have also importance in terms of the possibility to introduce innovative solutions as far as engine and traction are regarded, reducing noise emissions (vehicles will be quiter) and pollutants as well.