FASTLITE: French Program to Cut Vehicle Weight

In the next 5 to 7 years, the French FASTLITE project is attempting to take 200 kg (440 lb) out of vehicle weight. FASTLITE is subsidized by the French government, and involves Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroen, a dozen suppliers, research labs and universities.
A PSA Materials Expert was quoted as saying that carbon fiber is too expensive for mass production even when considering lifetime fuel savings. However, SMC (sheet molding compound) becomes more economical, since the lower lifetime fuel costs can outweigh the additional costs associated with manufacturing. In addition, he says that “We are not sure that the materials needed are existing today … We need modeling tools, automation, numeric tools; and our teams need to learn how to design composite parts.”
The article describes a presentation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comparing extra costs of different materials with the possible weight savings. High-strength steel adds €1 to €2 ($1.33 to $1.66) per 2.2 lbs. (1 kg) and saves 5% to 20% of mass, while carbon fiber adds €10 to €16 ($13.30 to $21.25) in manufacturing cost to save 40% to 60% in mass.

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