The Road Transport Research (RTR) conference, organized by the European Commission, brought together industry experts to discuss the latest advancements and future possibilities in road transport research. One of the themes of the conference was the role of lightweighting projects, such as the ALMA project, and their impact on the European automotive industry. Ms Raquel Ledo from CTAG, project coordinator for ALMA was there to present the project.
The RTR conference featured various sessions that covered a broad range of topics related to road transport research. The sessions included presentations and discussions on topics such as sustainable transport, automated and connected driving, and advanced materials and production processes. The conference was attended by a diverse range of industry experts, including researchers, policymakers, and representatives from the automotive industry.
Session on Advanced light materials and their production processes
One of the key takeaways from the session was the significant contribution that vehicle lightweighting projects will be making to the European automotive industry. Lightweighting projects, such as the ALMA project and the other EnlightEV Cluster projects (REVOLUTION, LEVIS, Fatigue4Light, FLAMINGo) involve the use of advanced materials and innovative design and production processes to reduce vehicle weight while maintaining or improving performance, safety, and durability. With a 23% reduction of the weight of the baseline body in white design, our project has already exceeded its original target. This is expected to reduce energy consumption by 6% overall.
The adoption of lightweighting projects has been driven by pressure to reduce carbon emissions and increase fuel efficiency, as well as consumer demand for more sustainable and environmentally friendly vehicles. But these projects are also creating further opportunities for European manufacturers to develop new materials, technologies, and production processes, leading to increased competitiveness and growth in the automotive industry. In the ALMA project we have already seen the development of new manufacturing processes, for example using laser welding to enable the production of single components that integrate several other parts from the previous designs. This will increase efficiency, reduce the material wasted, and by simplifying the process also bring down investments in tooling which will overall lower the costs in production.
Furthermore, we expect that Ecodesign principles and more advanced use of lifecycle assessments will have a positive impact on the automotive industry by ensuring smarter design choices and trade-offs between environmental costs and benefits across all lifecycle phases. Ecodesign principles involve designing products with the environment in mind, such as using materials that are recyclable or have a low carbon footprint. Lifecycle assessments provide a comprehensive view of the environmental impact of a product throughout its entire lifecycle, from production to disposal. ALMA is already demonstrating how by incorporating these principles into vehicle design and production, the automotive industry can reduce its overall carbon footprint and minimize waste. For example the newly developed BEVSIM tool will make LCA modelling very accessible to all car designers and engineers so that they can use to quickly verify their design choices but also to identify environmental hotspots that need more work.
The RTR conference provided a platform for industry experts to discuss the latest advancements and future possibilities in road transport research. One of the key themes of the conference was the role of lightweighting projects, such as the ALMA project, in the European automotive industry. The adoption of lightweighting projects will surely be a significant driver of innovation and growth in the European automotive sector, leading to more sustainable and efficient transportation solutions. The ALMA project is a prominent example of the contribution that vehicle lightweighting projects are making to the automotive industry in Europe.