Cross-company initiative yields stunning results
The lighter the car, the less energy it will take to get it moving from here to there. Makes sense. But how do you make the automobile less weighty—without sacrificing safety and ensuring that production processes are streamlined?
By putting the best minds from three companies together.
Meeting of the Minds
Johnson Controls, ThyssenKrupp Steel and ThyssenKrupp Presta took a blank-paper approach to the above-mentioned question, pondering what was essential to a solid, yet lightweight, automotive cockpit. The resulting solution—called EcoSpace—saves more than 20 percent in weight as compared with previous constructions, without sacrificing passenger safety, functionality or ergonomics. And the new design offers significant structural improvements.
The EcoSpace construction uses a lightweight hybrid of composite steel and plastic, providing the integrity to eliminate half of the heavy cross-car beam. Johnson Controls provided the long fiber-reinforced polypropylene (plastic), while ThyssenKrupp Steel contributed the steel and bodywork. ThyssenKrupp Presta provided the steering column and corresponding engineering know-how
. Together, the components offered lower weight, high integration potential and significant structural properties.
Air channels, the connection to the airbag and the back of the glove box are integrated directly into the plastic structure. These parts also enable more structural rigidity, helping to make the cockpit more stable. Because structural rigidity is required mainly in the steering column area, the engineers used the steel for the driver’s side in the form of a tripod. It is screwed to the cowl, the A-pillar and the floor. Simulations of the entire cockpit structure show that it has such a homogeneous construction that there is no variation in safety level: Crash performance is the same on the driver and passenger sides, regardless of whether the impact takes place on the side with a greater proportion of steel or plastic.
An added benefit to the new structure: There’s more flexibility for designing the passenger side of the cockpit. Because of the new cockpit structure, new layouts and options abound for the passenger side.