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  1. 1. A clean sheet approachto automotive designThammy Evans of Hypercar Inc explains the companys approach to automotivedesign. From a clean sheet perspective it uses composites heavily throughout thevehicle, including the primary structural elements, to gain significant advantagesin performance and cost. o one said it would be easy toN make high volume composite vehicles that are cost effectiveand do not compromise on perform-ance, but Hypercar Inc has at least saidit can be done. No compromise hasbeen Hypercars work ethic ever since itwas founded in 1998 to build a highvolume production, lightweight vehiclethat is super fuel efficient and uses themost m o d e r n technology and designtechniques.Making something simpleis a complex process,whereas it is very simpleto make somethingcomplex.The result: a 99 mpg-equivalent private and public showings across by conventional compartmentalized(2.4 litres per 100 km) sport utility vehi- Europe and the USA. approaches.cle (SUV) crossover, with a composite Hypercar asserts that only by mak-body/chassis structure, and powered Composites intensive ing the vehicle composites intensive,by a proton exchange m e m b r a n e (PEM) Despite the excellent reviews of the and by radically simplifying the design,hydrogen fuel cell. After its first year of vehicles external design, however, the it is able to make the desired improve-computer aided design (CAD) develop- companys main focus is on the in- ments to the vehicle in terms ofm e n t and technology assessments, ternal workings of the designs system performance and fuel efficiency. Thefunded by a mere US$4.3 million, the innovations, which it refers to collect- vehicle requires less power to m o v efull-scale showcase model, n a m e d the ively as the foundation platform. forward or to stop, and the driveRevolution, shows off the sleek aero- Positioning itself as an advanced tech- train, suspension and steering mechan-dynamics of the design. C o m p a n y CEO nology development company, the isms shed considerable weight by notJon DeVault, a long-time composites development team had to look at the having to manage so m u c h mass, andindustry executive, witnessed the vehicle as a whole system in order through the use of by-wire technolo-unveiling of the vehicle last year, and to capture savings in production costs gies. Its design heralds the coming ofsays the model has been well received in that can not otherwise be gained drive by wire and makes long range54 REIIVFORCEDplastlcs September 2001 0034-3617/01/$ - see front matter © 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
  2. 2. A clean sheet approach to automotive designdirect-hydrogen fuel cell vehicles immi- says Taggart." The materials for an auto-nently possible. mobile do not require aerospace spec, so Hypercar produced the SUV manufacturing processes can be radicallycrossover as its showcase model after simplified, and production costs dropinitial market research in the American accordingly. Cost was the primary drivermarket. The average US driver typically in our design process."demands plenty of r o o m inside the car,good acceleration, with the ability to Safety firstcarry a heavy payload, and the option Taggart and his team have broughtto handle mild oft-road conditions. breakthrough structural integrity andCoupled with the companys own safety to their foundation platform byproduct requirements of safety, fuel creating a passenger safety cell made ofefficiency, low emissions, and high vol- carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP).u m e production economics, Hypercar This passenger safety cell forms the mainhas succeeded in coming up with a structure of the vehicle including sus-product design, systems innovations pension and subframe interfaces, andand manufacturing processes which houses the hydrogen tanks in order tohave truly brought the car into the 21st provide m a x i m u m protection andcentury. Its technology could be ready greater safety for the early as 2005 for integration into Key to the affordability of the inte-production models. grated design and production solution of the vehicle is a proprietary processingThe clean sheet approach step which has the job of preparing theHow have they done it? David Taggart, equivalent of a tailored blank for sub-senior vice president of product devel- sequent forming into a final component.opment, was tasked with meeting this This innovation uses existing technolo-strict set of product requirements. restricted to SUVs. The basic design gy, but in a very unique way. The processFormerly of Lockheed Martins aero- approach, and manufacturing goals, and allows production of 50 000 automotivespace engineering Skunk Works, where mentality of their foundation platform safety cells per year in a combination ofhe worked on the design and can be applied to any car, be it sportier, no more than three vehicle variants, andproduction of a variety of aircraft and larger, smaller, more luxurious, or less so. uses aligned reinforcement to ensure achallenging structural applications, Although he was originally schooled dramatic weight reduction. The processTaggart brought his unique interpreta- as an undergraduate in metallurgical is highly repeatable, tailorable, moni-tion of the Skunk Works development engineering, Taggart was, nevertheless, torable and controllable, and allows theprocess with h i m to Hypercar. He kept a inspired by the design flexibility and use of either thermosets or thermo-small expert team of development engi- outstanding properties of composites. He plastics, and either modified stamping orneers in an intimate working environ- then went on to a graduate degree and a resin infusion processes in the finalm e n t where he encouraged a discipline professional career in advanced materi- processing step to complete the overallof constant dialogue and rigorous deci- als, structural design, and programme production process.sion making as a means of achieving management prior to coming to The safety cell has been analyzedsystems breakthroughs without com- Hypercar. There was, therefore, no doubt using automotive industry standardpromising the product requirements. for him that the resulting design needed tools and shown to withstand a The clean sheet approach they to be composites intensive, including, of 56 k m / h r (35 mph) head on collisionapplied allowed t h e m to arrive at inno- course, the compressed hydrogen tanks. with a stationary object and still remainvative approaches to meeting the prod- Taggart then applied the aerospace undamaged. This far exceeds regularuct requirements, while radically simpli- design mentality, and brought aerospace safety standards, but the team built thisfying the design and processes to manufacturing processes into the equa- level of safety into the design, not onlymanage production costs. This has tion to broaden the teams design free- for structural reasons, but also for theresulted in a platform design and pro- d o m and deliver the required repeatabili- benefit of repair and reuse. In factoringduction solution that meets the product ty and performance. durability and re-use into the vehicle,requirements, and can be affordably pro- "Air vehicle engineering typically has the design compensates for the cost ofduced at attractive volumes. Yet the to deal with intense loads and system repairing CFRP structures by forcingdesign they have engineered is not complexity. That is not the case here," energy absorption to occur in the front Se p t e m b e r 2 0 0 1 R£11W~V~Dplaslics 55
  3. 3. A clean sheet approach to automotive design of the c o m p o n e n t s are designed to be reused in other product forms, and the vehicles digital nervous system, incorporating the latest software and electronics, can be remotely upgraded diagnosed and repaired, and to a large degree, choreographs the dismantling of the vehicles c o m p o n e n t s at the end of its useful life. Economics The design has not been without its hur- dles though. Yet with their no compro- mise approach, the team has either turned the problem into an overall prod- uct advantage, such as making the struc- ture so durable that it needs little repair, or has simplified the problem so that it does not present itself as one. It would, for example, seem advantageous to make the most of composites properties toof the vehicle. Energy distribution then sedans, which is outstanding for an SUV embed electronics into the materialtakes place in the safety cell, thereby with 1.9 m 3 of cargo space. Working itself, and thus simplify the design fur-allowing the vehicle to withstand within TWRs engineering facilities in ther. But, once again, repairing embed-greater impacts with less damage. the UK, the Formula One specialist engi- ded wires, if needed, would be difficult, Front and rear of the passenger safety neering consultancy, the Revolutions and it would add to the complexity andcell are tailored crush zones. These are stylists have made the vehicle sleeker production cost of the structure, so thedesigned to absorb increasing amounts than any other crossover SUV on the team has taken the decision to leaveof impact energy prior to damaging the market or even in the showroom. Yet on most of the electronics outside of thepassenger safety cell at higher speeds. the outside the vehicle appears no bigger structure. The bumper is made of CFRP than a BMW X5 or a Lexus RX300. One of the unique outcomes ofdesigned to withstand impacts up to "The key to unlocking the weight and Hypercars design approach is that it has24 k m / h r (15 mph). cost reduction benefits of advanced com- brought the main structural frame inside The next zone comprises a tubular posites is in the simplicity of the design the vehicle, instead of making it a part ofaluminium subframe, and numerous and overall integration of that design the outer surface.suspension and system components. with an interdependent process solu- Taggart maintains that separating theAluminium was chosen because of its tion," says Taggart. "By working very structure from the skin was desirable forability to easily manage a variety of hard to tailor the structural design, and a number of reasons, one being that itstructural hard points and geometric by developing the production processes is possible to change the outer skin ofcomplexity at low cost, while providing ideally suited to producing the parts, we the vehicle as styles change over thea low risk and repeatable energy absorp- have greatly simplified the overall tool- years. More importantly, the structuraltion solution. ing, production and assembly approach. components could be tailored to do Finally, covering the entire passenger The design is now so simple that the the job required of the structure, in assafety cell, and front and rear crush components of the safety cell fit together low cost a manner as possible. Coupled,zones, is a thermoplastic and reusable with m i n i m u m effort, m u c h like a Revell in addition, with all the other upgrade-skin to enable tailored vehicle style, in- toy model kit." able features of the vehicle, the designmould colour, and dent resistance. Durability has been built into the allows an individual to considerablyCombined with the smooth underbelly design from the beginning. This is upgrade a vehicle without having to buyof the safety cell, this combination another of the advantages of compos- a new car.affords a reduction in drag coefficient ites, which do not rust, or degrade Hypercars target production volumeand gain in fuel efficiency. The easily, and in this case, do not go is 50 000 units per year, which repre-Revolution has a drag coefficient of 0.26, through an expensive and environmen- sents an important threshold level formaking it more aerodynamic than most tally detrimental spray paint job. Most the original equipment manufacturers56 P.EIl~lCEDplastics September 2001
  4. 4. A clean sheet approach to automotive design(OEMs). The c o m p a n y forecasts that its "Making something simple is a upgradeability is the key to niche mar-average production spec will be higher in complex process," says Taggart, "whereas kets and will give the manufacturermaterials costs, but considerably lower in it is very simple to make something which takes up its design concepts andassembly and production overhead costs. complex." systems innovations the competitiveIts clean sheet approach and whole edge over the manufacture of conven-system vehicle understanding has tional steel vehicles.emphasized the need to eliminate ineffi- Low retooling costs would Hypercars product developmentciencies and minimize waste throughout allow for highly tailorable approach and technical innovations arethe entire manufacturing process. The a game changer for sure, and it will bedesign as a result is also extremely effi- production runs. inspiring for composite material produc-cient on accessory loads and perform- ers and manufacturers around the worldance, especially for a car that can get With such a simple vehicle design to track what might be the first volume0-96 k m / h r (60 mph) in 8.3 seconds, and correspondingly affordable manu- production carbon reinforced solutionwith four wheel drive capability and facturing costs, it would, therefore, not inroad into the automotive world. •variable attitude control and ground be a big investment for Hypercar toclearance. It would be difficult to com- retool for a new design. Low retoolingpare these economics to other composite costs would allow for highly tailorablevehicles as they tend to deal only in production runs, something which only Hypercar Ira:, I I 0 Midland Avenue, Suitesmaller volumes, and avoid high manu- Toyota is really striving to do with 202, Basalt, C O 81621, USA; tel: +1-facturing costs by making composites steel cars, and which to date has eluded 970-927-4556; fax: +1-970-927-4593;only a part of the structural solution and the conventional car manufacturer. website: w w w . ~ c o m .less a part of the chassis system. Hyper-car forecasts that tailorability and C u s t o m Profiles - S t a n d a r d Profiles - S t r u c t u r a l UP TO 1,5 mt. WIDE Available in a wide variety o f shapes, colours, fibers (glass and carbo resins (polyester, vinylester, acrylic, phenolic, epoxy) ,day al.~o in thcrmol~lastic rc~in ~ ,~: ~tt~ .:i ¸ , "~ Main Applications Chemical Plants - Cable Trays - Cable Ladders - Water Treatment Plat Fences (radar permeable!) - Cooling Towers - Housing Units -Antennas Handrails and Walkways - Gratings - Ladders - Construction - Structu Tapered Poles - Lighting Columns RES No.346 - USE THE FAST NEW E N Q U I R Y SERVICE @ September 2001 REIl~:OltGFDpla~tics 57