Dr. Raghu Echempati, Mechanical Engineering faculty member at Kettering University, spoke at the 2017 SIIDI Conference October 2-6 at the Pontifical Bolivarian University (PBU) in Bucaramanga, Colombia.
In several sessions throughout the conference, he talked about how automotive lightweighting technologies connects to sustainability, food processing and agricultural industries. Transportation, especially trucking, is a key aspect of moving food like coffee and fruit around the world.
He does applied research on automotive lightweighting, or making vehicles out of lighter materials than steel to increase fuel economy and redesigning parts to make them lighter and safer.
By 2025, the Environmental Protection Agency will require all vehicles must give 54.5 miles and above per gallon as part of the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulation.
Echempati said aluminium is a common replacement for steel on vehicles. A semi or vehicle made out of aluminum, magnesium and plastic has better fuel economy than a traditional steel vehicle.
The weight of aluminium is nearly three times less than that of steel. While steel is stronger, it’s not three times as strong, which gives aluminium an advantage, Echempati said. He’s interested in doing applied research on aluminium alloys to make it as strong and safe as steel, but also more efficient. Aluminium, if properly designed, is a good candidate for absorbing crash energy, Echempati said. It also has the advantage of not rusting like steel and is mostly recyclable.
Steel remains cheaper than aluminium. A Ford F-150 aluminium truck is about $350 more than its steel counterpart.
The key with automotive lightweighting is not to compromise the size of the vehicles, but to keep pulling power and passenger comfort.
More than 300 people were in attendance, including students, faculty and guest professors at the SIIDI Conference.
He talked to PBU students about Kettering and encouraged them to apply for the undergraduate and graduate programs.