The following article is an edited transcript based on the plenary talk given by Alan I. Taub of General Motors Corp. on November 28, 2005, at the Materials Research Society Fall Meeting in Boston.
Fuel economy requirements, emissions regulations, and the push for energy independence are key factors driving the auto industry to increase vehicle efficiency. The main avenues to efficiency improvement are powertrain enhancements and mass reduction. This presentation details how General Motors is developing advanced propulsion systems and using lightweight materials to achieve greater vehicle efficiency. Taub, who is executive director of General Motors Research and Development, outlines GM's strategy for advancing propulsion technology, from improvements in the internalcombustion engine to hybridization to full vehicle electrification. He then describes the company's efforts to use lightweight materials such as aluminum and magnesium alloys, high-strength steels, and composites to reduce vehicle weight. Also highlighted is GM's success in employing novel materials in the development of advanced vehicle and powertrain systems to achieve additional efficiencies. One example is the application of smart materials, which enable new features and functions by way of mechamatronic solutions (the integration of smart materials with mechanical systems and electronics). Key technical hurdles that must be overcome to increase the use of these materials by the automotive industry are also discussed.