1. Money
Send to a Friend via Email

Dodge ESX3 Concept Car has Composite Body

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22 - Lightweight and low cost. The Dodge ESX3 concept car shows you don't have to sacrifice one to achieve the other.

At only 2,250 pounds (1020 kg), ESX3 takes advantage of DaimlerChrysler's unique injection-molded thermoplastic technology first shown in the fall of 1997 in the four-piece Composite Concept Vehicle (CCV). Advances in material strength, color and affordability, in combination with design and manufacturing innovations, have allowed DaimlerChrysler to apply the technology to vehicles that could compete in developed markets with tough safety standards and customer expectations.

"The main structure of the Dodge ESX3 has only 12 pieces," said Bernard Robertson, Senior Vice President - Engineering Technologies and General Manager - Truck Operations, DaimlerChrysler. "That compares to up to 100 metal pieces in a conventional car.

"But the most impressive technical feat is that we've designed a lightweight body that would cost less than a conventional steel body -- and much less than other lightweight material options such as aluminum, titanium or thermoset composites."

The low-cost, lightweight material also helps offset the weight and cost of the "mybrid" powertrain. The body system is estimated to weigh 46 percent less and cost 15 percent less to manufacture than a comparable metal body. A DaimlerChrysler patent is pending on the proprietary mix of thermoplastic, aluminum and lightweight structural foam from which the ESX3 body was designed. The one-of-a-kind concept car was actually built with hand-made thermoset materials that match the properties of the injection-molded thermoplastic design. A combination of aluminum, magnesium, steel and composites create the powertrain and chassis of the Dodge ESX3.

Computer-simulated crash tests show the Dodge ESX3 concept car stands up to all required federal tests. Data gained from actual crashes of CCV prototype vehicles, in temperatures varying from -40 to 210 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 to 100 degrees Celsius), help provide the necessary input to get accurate computer test results.

To give the body its strength, aluminum tubular sections are combined with the injection-molded thermoplastic body sections.

This unique body structure is actually stiffer than today's Intrepid and will provide crisp ride and handling characteristics.

"We refer to the thin aluminum sections as the 'sparseframe' to distinguish it from currently available vehicles that simply hang plastic body panels over a conventional, metal spaceframe," explained Larry Oswald, Director - Advanced Body Engineering, DaimlerChrysler Liberty & Technical Affairs.

While the varying types of composites and plastics used in vehicles today are difficult to recycle, Oswald estimates at least 80 percent of the ESX3 could be recycled. That percentage could increase in the future as the market for recycled materials evolves.

Continued testing and improvements in generating a high-gloss surface color without conventional paint are required before complete vehicles are made with the thermoplastic material. DaimlerChrysler is first introducing this new technology on up to 5,000 Jeep(R) Wrangler hardtops for the 2001 model year.

On the inside of the Dodge ESX3, everything from the seats to the air conditioning system to the glass is optimized for lightweight, efficient performance.

The concept uses several unique technologies to avoid temperature extremes so the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems can run more efficiently. Solar reflective glass and paint reduce the amount of sunlight and heat that enters the car, so the air conditioning demands are reduced in the summer. The concept car also takes its own temperature when parked, and can turn the fan on to expel hot air and prevent the vehicle from ever reaching extreme temperatures.

Lightweight, aluminum-framed seats take passenger comfort to a new level by either heating or cooling the passenger through the bottom of the seat, as opposed to only blowing hot or cold air out of the instrument panel. Using a new electric heater design, the ventilation system can instantaneously provide heat on a cold day.

These energy-efficient technologies allow the complete HVAC system to be 40 percent lighter than in a conventional mid-size car.

"We engineered every aspect of this car with efficiency in mind -- and that includes cost efficiency," added Robertson.

Contact: Ann Smith, 248-512-6502, or Max Gates, 202-414-6763, both of DaimlerChrysler

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.