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2017 Chrysler Pacifica wins Altair Enlighten Award for weight reduction in full vehicle category; Toyota, Faurecia and AP&T module, technology winners

Altair and the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) the winners of the 5th annual Altair Enlighten Award, which strives to promote and celebrate innovation in automotive lightweighting. The winner of the Full Vehicle category was the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which is 249 pounds (113 kilograms) lighter than its predecessor.

Toyota’s carbon fiber closure panels for the 2017 Prius Prime and Lexus LC500 (earlier post), and Faurecia’s Adaptive Valve for exhaust systems employed on the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado took the top honors for the module category. Swedish metal forming specialist AP&T claimed the Enabling Technology category for its innovative aluminum forming technology used on several European vehicles.

2017 Chrysler Pacifica. The FCA team built the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica from the ground up to achieve a lighter vehicle with improved safety, better NVH performance and superior interior space and comfort. The body system, which shed 168 pounds (76 kilograms), utilized high strength steels and large amounts of dual phase and hot stamped material grades for improved impact protection at reduced weight.

Among the innovative aspects of the new Pacifica’s design is its tailor-welded-blank door structure, which utilizes ultra high-strength hot-stamped steel, and its hydroformed loadbeams, also made from ultra high-strength steel. These and other advances enhance crashworthiness and contribute to torsional stiffness that is 88% greater than that of the vehicle it replaces.


All-new 2017 Chrysler Pacifica body structure 72% high-strength steel. Click to enlarge.

In addition, the all-new Pacifica minivan also makes strategic use of aluminum. Its hood and sliding doors are made of the lightweight material.

Further, the Pacifica’s liftgate comprises an aluminum outer panel bonded to a cast-magnesium inner panel—one of the largest cast-magnesium automotive components in high-volume production. The combination of the two materials contribute to weight savings of 18.5 pounds per vehicle.

Simulation methodologies including topology optimization studies were used throughout the vehicle’s development to ensure a material efficient design.

Weight reduction is a key contributor to improved fuel economy. In highway driving, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica earns a best-in-class rating of 28 miles per gallon (mpg) from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its combined city/highway rating of 22 mpg is unsurpassed in the minivan segment, while the all-new vehicle’s unique construction also benefits the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid. (Earlier post.)

With an EPA rating of 84 miles-per-gallon-equivalent (MPGe), the Pacifica’s plug-in, electrified twin is the most efficient minivan yet.

Module category. For the module category, which focuses on vehicle systems, subsystems and components, the international judging panel could not split the winners, opting to award the top prize to both Toyota and Faurecia. Toyota’s winning entry concerned the side and luggage doors of the 2017 Lexus LC and the liftgate of the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime which feature carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) inner panels, combined with aluminum, glass-fiber reinforced plastic (GFRP) and polypropylene outers for components that are 47% lighter than conventional metal structures.

Faurecia’s winning entry was the Adaptive Valve, an offset shaft spring return butterfly valve located in the intermediate pipe of the exhaust system. Valves are essential for capping vehicle noise and serve a strategic purpose as well, by helping to create a more lightweight exhaust system. Acoustic valves are primarily used in closed position to muffle exhaust noise at low speeds and comply with regional noise-control standards.

The adaptive valve from Faurecia, located ahead of the rear muffler in the intermediate pipe, is self-adjusting, activated by the flow of exhaust gas. Its specific purpose is to address NVH concerns caused by cylinder deactivation by presenting the gas flow with a variable restriction.

The valve requires less package space than traditional systems and its innovative design reduced the muffler weight of the 2017 Chevrolet Silverado by 26.5 pounds (12 kilograms).

Enabling Technology category. The Enabling Technology category, a new award introduced in 2017 to recognize technological advances that enable manufacturers to save weight, was claimed by AP&T. The company’s aluminum forming technology is the world’s first multipurpose production line for high-strength aluminum sheet metal, enabling flexibility in the forming of high strength car body components with complex shapes, leading to weight savings between 30-50%.

The runner-up for this year’s Full Vehicle award was Honda for the multi-material space frame used to make the 2017 Acura NSX 48.5 pounds (22 kilograms) lighter. Constellium claimed the second place title in the Enabling Technology category for the HSA6TM aluminum alloys, which support the development of vehicles that are 15-30% lighter than those produced using conventional 6000-series aluminum alloys.

The Altair Enlighten Award is judged by a combination of automotive experts from industry, academia and the engineering media from across the world who debated the merits of each of the 29 finalists.

Founded in 1985, Altair is focused on the development and application of simulation technology to synthesize and optimize designs, processes and decisions for improved business performance.

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