Secretary Peña, Industry Leaders To Discuss Vehicles Of The Future

August 20, 1997

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Secretary of Energy Federico Peña and senior executives from the Big Three automakers, the IBM Corporation and Northwest aluminum, transportation and electric utility companies will gather for a summit in Seattle later this month to discuss the development of technologies needed to create motor vehicles of the future, including cars that get 70 to 80 miles to the gallon.

The summit will be held Wednesday, Aug. 27, at Seattle's Bell Harbor Conference Center, and is being organized by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory of Richland, Wash. The laboratory has done considerable work in developing new materials and high rate forming of metals for the car, truck and aircraft industries. With the support of the Department of Energy, the laboratory is creating an alliance of automakers and Northwest organizations, called the Northwest Alliance for Transportation Technologies, to help produce durable, lightweight, energy-efficient cars and trucks.

NATT was established last October to support a U.S. Government-domestic automaker initiative launched in 1993 called the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles.

"Through NATT, which combines the strengths of the region, the Northwest can play a major role in developing the car of the future," said Gary McVay, director of NATT at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. According to Senator Patty Murray, the Pacific Northwest offers a unique set of natural and technical resources to help in the development of the lightweight vehicle of the future. "Aluminum, magnesium and titanium companies, along with the technical infrastructure provided by the national lab, universities and manufacturing companies, are assets unmatched in any other part of the country," Murray said.

A primary goal of the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles is to produce a durable, mid-sized vehicle with performance and price similar to today's cars but with triple the fuel efficiency, greatly reduced emissions and 80-percent recyclable components.

"To make substantial increases in fuel efficiency, the weight of vehicles needs to be reduced dramatically," McVay said. "Therefore, NATT's initial focus will be to help develop the technology necessary to reduce the weight of today's vehicles by about half.

"Weight reduction will be achieved primarily by using lightweight materials to replace current steel components," McVay added. A lighter vehicle also will enable more effective use of advanced propulsion systems."

Specifically, NATT partners will combine their individual strengths to design new lightweight metal shaping and connecting techniques as well as lower the cost of materials production.

The IBM Corporation, through the investment of a $9.7 million supercomputer, will be a major participant in the alliance. "State-of-the-art computer simulation technology is needed to help understand the forming and processing challenges associated with lightweight materials," explained McVay. "IBM, through their knowledge of supercomputing and their investment, will play a major role in this task.

"Lightweight, fuel-efficient vehicles will bring environmental, energy and economic benefits to the United States," McVay added. "These vehicles will lessen reliance on foreign oil, contribute to a cleaner environment and aid the nation's automobile and light metal industries, which directly or indirectly accounts for one in seven U.S. jobs."

In Seattle, the day-long session will serve as an information exchange to define research needs associated with the further introduction of lightweight materials in the transportation area. "Our purpose is to bring together producers of lightweight metals and composites with the users of these materials in the car, truck and aircraft industries to identify future needs," McVay said. "Because modeling these processes is becoming an increasingly important element in the manufacturing equation, we're involving computer professionals as well."

For more information on the summit, contact Gary McVay at phone: (509) 375-3762, fax: (509) 375-2167 or via E-mail

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

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