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XCORE: Enabling breakthrough weight reduction for the next generation of cars

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - XCORE (XCORE: Enabling breakthrough weight reduction for the next generation of cars)

Reporting period: 2016-07-01 to 2016-12-31

The main objective of the overall innovation project is to provide a technical solution, XCORE, for cost-efficient production of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics (CFRP) structural components for the automotive industry. This breakthrough innovation enables Europe to create the next generation, low emission and high safety car.

European climate strategy and policy sets mandatory emission reduction targets for new cars. The most feasible ways to comply to these targets are the development of electric cars, more efficient engines and car weight reduction. The emission reduction targets for 2025 cannot be achieved with engine efficiency measures alone (McKinsey, 2012). Car weight reduction is a sustainable solution for both the short and long term. It reduces fuel consumption and is synergetic with electric and hydrogen vehicles, which carry heavy batteries or hydrogen tanks. Car weight reduction extends the range of electric and hydrogen cars making these vehicles a viable alternative to fossil fuelled cars. The structural components of a car, the chassis, is manufactured from steel. It is widely accepted that CFRP is an ideal lightweight alternative for steel. CFRP has excellent mechanical properties and weighs approximately 40% less than steel. CFRP has a higher impact resistance than steel resulting in safer car structures. CFRP has already become well established in high value markets such as aerospace, military and high value (race) cars. The mainstream automotive industry has not adopted CFRP for the production of structural components (chassis) due to high investment and operational costs. XCORE is an advanced manufacturing technology for the production of structural CFRP components with 30% reduced operational costs and 50% reduced investment costs with respect to conventional CFRP production methods. XCORE thus enables the CFRP market uptake for the mainstream automotive industry. The specific objectives for this feasibility study are to:

Establish the technical feasibility of reducing manufacturing cycle time to ten minutes and fully automate (no manual operations) the production process of XCORE on a commercial scale;
Establish the commercial feasibility by validating the financial and environmental benefits for all stakeholders by substantiating an overall cost reduction (investment and operational) of 40% with respect to conventional CFRP methods and a car chassis weight reduction of 40%;
Form a strong European consortium for demonstration of XCORE in phase 2 and subsequent market launch, consisting of core and fibre material suppliers and two car manufacturing companies;
Further elaborate the preliminary business plan by including a market implementation roadmap. This roadmap includes a detailed plan for a large scale demonstration project.
This Work Package consisted of four tasks.

Task 1. Determine technical feasibility of the production of XCORE on a commercial scale
The cycle time of a structural XCORE component has to be reduced to ten minutes. In order to determine the feasibility Donkervoort investigated how to fully automate and speed up the manufacturing process. XCORE was further developed to be compatible with sub 10 minute cycle times. A different approach was developed for the application of carbon fiber, reducing component costs and cycle times. Donkervoort has been able to reduce cycle times for XCORE to several minutes.

Task 2. Determine commercial feasibility by validating the financial and environmental benefits for all stakeholders
Based on preliminary calculations, both the environmental and the financial benefits of XCORE compared to the conventional CFRP manufacturing methods are large. However, potential buyers have indicated that they need stronger proof in order to take the investment decision. Donkervoort has researched and calculated the impact on cost reduction for CFRP structures via the application of XCORE. Donkervoort has also determined in initial analysis that XCORE will decrease the carbon footprint of CFRP structure production.

Task 3. Create a strong European consortium for market launch
In order to convince the conservative market of the large benefits of XCORE a large scale demonstration project is necessary. In order to have the largest impact, all relevant stakeholders should be represented in this project. The project consortium consists of:
• Project coordinator Donkervoort
• Two automotive manufacturing companies
• A fibre and core foam supplying company
Donkervoort is setting up Letters of Intent with various OEM's. And has found several partners for the demonstrator project. Additionally Donkervoort has found industrial partners for fibre and core supply.

Task 4. Write an elaborated business plan
Donkervoort has written a business plan outlining the commercialization of XCORE. The plan includes a commercial strategy and market implementation roadmap.
Donkervoort estimates that a XCORE vehicle structure will
- require less CFRP due to increased strength and stiffness from XCORE
- increase passive safety without the addition of crash structures
- increase comfort and reduce the application of insulation material
- increase reparability of the platform
- reduce platform weight leading to a reduction of required batteries (in case of BEV)
- reduce assembly complexity due to one-shot production (no bonding required of separate components)

With the commercialization of XCORE Donkervoort has calculated that it is possible to produce CFRP components at around 25Eurp/Kg. This is the industry threshold for a disruptive shift from steel vehicle structures to CFRP structures. XCORE has the potential to reduce global carbon footprint of transport and accelerate the advent of electric vehicles.