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Wolfsburg, Germany – Research and Development at Volkswagen is increasingly focusing on new materials and construction methods for automotive manufacturing. In particular the Group experts regard lightweight technology to be a vital importance for future vehicle concepts.
The car of the future should not only satisfy the numerous legal regulations, but also fulfil the growing social expectations with regard to energy efficiency, fuel consumption, climate protection, safety and comfort. A particular technological challenge is the reduction of fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions.
Volkswagen has demonstrated its competence in the field with its progressive drive and vehicle technology for example in its previous work for low-consumption vehicles like the three-litre Lupo, launched in 1999. Volkswagen went another step further in April 2002 with the one-litre car and was able to show how vehicle weight can significantly be brought down using innovative materials like aluminium, magnesium or carbon-fibre-reinforced plastics (CFP) in conjunction with new methods of construction.
A weight reduction at an acceptable price cannot be achieved with new materials alone. In conceptual lightweight construction, Volkswagen has decided upon an intelligent combination of construction methods, choice of materials and manufacturing methods. Within the Group highly diverse technology is available, like the use of die-quenched parts, the joining of stainless steels and cast alloy and also innovative materials like high-performance plastics or aluminium and magnesium alloys.
The expert knowledge of lightweight body construction and joining technology are also incorporated into the current development projects, in order to implement this technology in production at a reasonable cost. Examples of this can be found in the new Golf. A gearbox housing made from magnesium is fitted, which weighs around 25 percent less than the already light aluminium model. The Group is already working intensively on using magnesium alloys in the engine block. Steel, the classic material used for vehicle construction, can also be integrated into lightweight construction concepts. For instance, very-high-strength grade hot formed steels have been used for the B-pillars in the new Golf. Furthermore, joining techniques like laser welding are further developed as design concepts require.
Friction and wear inflict additional costs due to increased energy expenses and fuel consumption, cost of repairs, parts and downtime. Environmentally sound system solutions enable a reduction of friction and wear, which lower fuel consumption and lengthen the service life of parts by means of selected “tribological layers”. To do this layers of diamond-like carbon, DLC are used for high-stress mechanical parts to control wear even under difficult lubrication conditions. The development of modern high pressure injection systems in automotive construction, was only made possible using this type of coating, as in the turbo-diesel engine with unit injectors.
The developers at Volkswagen give special attention to economic efficiency and the all-round use of the new procedures as the acceptance of the new materials depends in particular on the availability of, manufacturing technology, which is economically efficient and reliable. This must not only fulfil the space and safety requirements of modern vehicle bodies but also meet the environmental requirements such as energy efficiency and recyclability.
Volkswagen will satisfy even more diverse customer demands in the future. The Roadster study “concept R” shows the direction. Niche vehicles and derivatives will profit greatly from modern methods of construction using lightweight manufacturing materials.
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