Automobile manufacturers increasingly desire to produce vehicles that are not only fuel efficient and environmentally friendly, but also, light weight and structurally safe. Vehicle weight plays an important role in fuel consumption and is relatively effected by the size of structural components and powertrain.
The quest to reduce vehicle weight without jeopardizing structure’s crash energy management has lead to investigating materials other than steel, i.e., aluminum, composite, magnesium etc. In this regard, aluminum is the most popular material that is prominent due to its tangible material properties. Aluminum space frame and extruded aluminum components are widely used in the automotive industry, especially in low volume and niche vehicle programs, and in programs where significant weight reduction has to be achieved.
The structural components of aluminum space frame can be designed to achieve high energy absorption under various crash conditions (i.e. full front and offset crash against rigid and deformable barriers). Techniques are available to downgage or reinforce components where needed, so that excellent crash performance (axial collapse as well as local bending) can be achieved within weight targets. This enables for a flexible adjustment of various vehicle architecture parameters (i.e., front rails height, vehicle length and width) which, again, is ideal for low volume approaches.