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ALMA project pursues the path to electromobility with advanced materials, processes

European consortium to develop BEV structure with 45% weight reduction via a multimaterial, modular e-vehicle platform for more energy-efficient and sustainable vehicles.
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EU ALMA project concept graphic.

Photo Credit: Fraunhofer ITWM

E-mobility and lightweight construction are two crucial building blocks of modern vehicle development driving the transition to electrification. They are also the main focus of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 ALMA project (Advanced Light Materials and Processes for the Eco-Design of Electric Vehicles), which is being pursued by nine European organizations, including the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ( Fraunhofer ITWM, Kaiserslautern, Germany), which are working to develop more energy-efficient and sustainable vehicles, of which Fraunhofer ITWM is providing support with mathematical simulation expertise.

Representing the EU’s aim to have at least 30 million zero-emission vehicles on its roads by 2030, the ALMA project started on Feb. 23, 2021 with a digital kickoff meeting that brought together the nine partners. Expectations for the three-year project include development of a novel battery electric vehicle (BEV) structure for a passenger car with 45% reduction potential compared to the current baseline at affordable costs. For this purpose, ALMA will develop a multimaterial, modular platform made of a combination of advanced high-strength steels (AHHS), advanced-SMC and steel-hybrid materials, characterized with multi-scale, model-based tools.

“We, as Fraunhofer ITWM, bring our long-standing expertise in the field of efficient multi-scale simulations of the manufacturing of fiber-reinforced composite components to the project,” says Dr. Konrad Steiner, head of the Department of Flow and Material Simulation at Fraunhofer ITWM. “Our customized simulation tools create a digital twin and support the optimization of lightweight structures during vehicle development. This includes the simulation of the forming processes of the SMC [sheet molding compound] components to calculate the local fiber concentration and fiber orientation with FLUID [a simulation software for complex fluids], and multi-scale thermomechanical simulations with FeelMath [analysis tool for the calculation of effective mechanical and thermal properties of micro-structures] to predict the strength and damage behavior.”

According to the consortium, to improve the efficiency and range of electric vehicles, the weight of the overall vehicle is to be reduced. In addition, the upcoming stricter EU regulations require the optimization of the production process towards a more sustainable circular economy — for the ALMA project, the entire life cycle of the vehicles and supply chain are being looked at. In this context, the companies and research institutions are also working together on the sustainable life cycle of an e-vehicle platform. This includes intelligent recycling and options for material recovery.

The ALMA consortium includes the following companies: The Automotive Technology Centre of Galicia (CTAG, Spain) is responsible for project management and material characterization; ArcelorMittal Maizières Research (AMMR, Maizières-lès-Metz, France) is dedicated to the development of advanced steels for automotive applications; Ford-Werke (Cologne, Germany) are working on the project from an end-user and CAE analysis perspective; Innerspec Technologies Europe (Madrid, Spain) is contributing solutions for non-destructive testing (NDT); Batz S. Coop. (Igorre, Spain) is on board as an automotive supplier; Rescoll (Pessac, France) is an SME specialized in adhesives and polymers; and the Dutch research organization TNO is developing Live Cycle Management together with the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA, Vienna, Austria). 

The ALMA project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No: 101006675.

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