Characterizing and enhancing the safety of future plastic and composite intensive vehicles (PCIVs).
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Characterizing and enhancing the safety of future plastic and composite intensive vehicles (PCIVs).

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      There is concern that a trend toward smaller, lighter, fuel-efficient vehicles could adversely affect overall fleet safety. Since 2006, the U.S. Congress has directed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to “examine the possible safety benefits of lightweight plastic and composite intensive vehicles (PCIVs)” with Federal and industry stakeholders. This paper identifies near-term research priorities and partnership opportunities to facilitate the deployment of safe and energy efficient PCIVs by 2020.

      A critical literature review and focused survey of subject matter experts identified knowledge gaps on automotive composites crashworthiness and consensus safety research priorities. Initial results were published in a 2007 PCIV Safety Roadmap report with milestones to 2020. The roadmap was developed to address development of plastics and composites crashworthiness test standards, improved computational simulation tools, and automotive design strategies.

      Additional inputs on key safety issues for automotive composites were obtained from an August 2008 experts’ workshop, which examined in depth critical near-term research priorities and strategies to meet crash occupant protection challenges for future PCIVs.

      There is broad consensus that future PCIV structural composites with high energy absorption may enhance crash safety by preserving occupant compartment strength and protecting crush space. Near-term cooperative research is needed to:

      •improve understanding of composite failure modes in vehicle crashes,

      •develop a database of relevant parameters for composite materials, and

      •enhance predictive models to avoid costly overdesign.

      PCIV safety research is synergistic with ongoing NHTSA research (hydrogen and alternative fuel vehicle safety, integrated safety, crash occupant protection), the US Government (DOE/USCAR consortia), and the global automotive industry and research community.

      This paper concentrates on safety-related research issues, assuming that other potential barriers to PCIV deployment (e.g., economic viability, manufacturability, sustainability) will be resolved. An updated safety roadmap and supporting cooperative research efforts are planned to facilitate the development and deployment of PCIVs with equal or superior crash safety by 2020.

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