Cross Innovation: Wood meets Vehicle Technology

Did you know that wood is a light-weight material that has outstanding strength, stiffness and stability with excellent damping behavior and low raw material costs? As part of the recently launched “WoodC.A.R.” project, VIRTUAL VEHICLE will take a completely new approach together with 16 partner companies from business and science: wood materials should be digitally calculable and used in future vehicle technologies.

Modified framework conditions and strategic objectives in the area of mobility (such as carbon footprint, e-mobility or weight reduction) require new vehicle concepts. Wood materials, if used properly, are high-performance materials and have the potential to be a valuable material extension for the mobility sector. Low raw material costs, excellent availability and ecological aspects are only three of many strengths, which clearly help to take more account of the material wood in the development of future vehicles.

WoodC.A.R. creates new synergies

At the end of 2016, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) approved the project “WoodC.A.R.” The four-year project aims to strengthen synergies between the research areas of wood and vehicle technologies.

Since March 2017, representatives from the automotive industry (such as MAGNA Steyr or MAN Truck & Bus AG) and the timber sector (such as Weizerparkett or Holzcluster Steiermark) are working side by side with scientific institutions such as BOKU Wien (scientific management of wood technology), the Graz University of Technology and the VIRTUAL VEHICLE (scientific management of vehicle technology).

Re-design, engineering and testing

On the basis of a previous feasibility study, different types of wood and wood composites were subjected to physical tests (including crash tests). In this way, it was possible to develop the necessary simulation methods for functional design and approval. Further research topics concern manufacturing technologies, process simulations and concrete applications, which must also meet the requirements of product design. The production concept and the economic viability up to the complete product lifecycle analysis are taken into account. At the end of the project, selected components are expected to reach a maturity level, which allows them to be used in the advanced development of a standard vehicle.

New mobility concepts and new intelligent lightweight construction

Thomas Jost, Group Leader of Structural Safety at VIRTUAL VEHICLE, is sure that WoodC.A.R. addresses two of the key challenges facing the todays vehicle industry: new mobility concepts and intelligent lightweight construction. “Wood as a natural lightweight material can make a significant contribution to sustainable mobility. In the project WoodC.A.R, the required computability of the material is shown starting from the integration into the multi-material overall structures up to the functional protection. For us, this is a major step in the area of lightweight construction materials and lightweight construction technology”, says Thomas Jost, who is responsible for the project WoodC.A.R. at VIRTUAL VEHICLE.