Johnson Controls, a global leader in automotive seating, interiors and electronics, is developing an innovative lightweight automotive design concept with industry partners that will reduce vehicle weight and improve fuel economy. The project, called CAMISMA (Carbon fiber- / Amid- /Metallic structural interior component using a multi-material approach), is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The project funds research that seeks to replace steel and light alloys with fiber-reinforced composites, including carbon fiber, in automotive designs. Partner organizations working with Johnson Controls include: Evonik Industries, Jacob Plastics GmbH, Toho Tenax Europe GmbH and the Technical University Aachen. The CAMISMA project has an initial timeline of three years.
“As a result of climate change and the declining reservoir of fossil fuels, a key challenge for the automotive industry is to develop fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles,” said Dr. Andreas Eppinger, vice president technology management at Johnson Controls Automotive Experience. “Vehicle weight is a key factor in determining fuel consumption, so it is important for projects like CAMISMA to help accomplish this goal.”
New materials and design approaches for lighter weight components
The CAMISMA project focuses on using multi-material systems in lightweight designs. Traditionally, using thinner sheets of steel reduced component weight. This technology cannot be further developed so the need for new materials and design becomes more important. The CAMISMA project focuses on the use of fiber-reinforced composites (FRC), particularly those based on carbon fiber to replace steel. Recognized for their use in aircraft design, these materials are beneficial because they are high strength and lighter in weight.
To date, FRCs have been too expensive for use in automobile production because of increasing raw material prices. It also takes longer to produce FRC components than it does metal parts. The CAMISMA project seeks to address these challenges. “We are pursuing ways to make high volume production economically feasible,” said Dr. Matthias Berghahn, head of the development line energy-efficient customer solutions at the science-to-business center Eco2 at Evonik Industries, one of Johnson Controls’ project partners.
Support from German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
The project is an essential part of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research’s program “Innovative Materials for Industry and Society,” focusing on the development of new products and processes with a relevant benefit for the society. The program has a goal of accelerating technical solutions through partnerships between economic and scientific stakeholders.
Seat structure made from FRC exemplifies comprehensive approach
CAMISMA intends to provide a comprehensive solution for the industry to use economically priced carbon fiber-reinforced materials. In addition, it will provide a way for the interfaces between FRC components and metal-based vehicles. An automotive seat is being developed, manufactured and tested, as a concept for the approach. The objective is to achieve more than a 40 percent weight reduction compared to conventional metal-based designs.
Johnson Controls recently announced a production-ready version of a rear seat backframe that incorporates adhesive bonded steel and aluminum components.
“With this design we reduced the weight by more than 30 percent compared to conventional steel designs,” added Eppinger. “We will continue to develop additional alternative, even lighter weight materials, with our partners in the CAMISMA project.”