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Lightweight Materials in Transportation

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Bharat Book introduces a report "Lightweight Materials in Transportation" Discussion of trends by type of material and application.

Less weight, consistent with other performance and safety requirements, means more useful work can be extracted from a unit of fuel or other energy source.

Reducing structural weight is one of the most important ways of reducing fuel consumption and improving the performance of motor vehicles and other types of transportation equipment. For example, an estimated 75% of the average motor vehicle’s fuel consumption is directly related to factors associated with vehicle weight. In addition, weight-reducing technologies are critical to the success of new, highly efficient energy technologies such as hybrid vehicles.Downsizing is one approach to reducing structural weight. However, practical considerations, safety standards and consumer preferences combine to limit the potential for reducing the weight of most transportation systems further through downsizing.

The alternative to downsizing is the development of materials that combine relatively low mass (weight) with the requisite strength, flexibility and other performance criteria. The aircraft industry was the first to introduce lightweight materials (e.g., aluminum alloys) on a widespread scale beginning in the 1920s. This continues today with the adoption of lightweight composite materials.Other industries, particularly the automotive industry, did not embrace lightweight materials as rapidly as the aircraft industry. However, in the 1990s automakers doubled their use of aluminum in an effort to reduce vehicle weight to meet federal fuel economy standards. While the Aluminum Association projects that automotive demand for aluminum should slow in the early 21st century, automakers are now incorporating increasing amounts of composites in their products.


This report is an update of a BCC Research report published in early 2011. The overall goal of this report is to provide an up-to-date assessment of the business opportunities for providers of lightweight materials that will arise over the next five years as these materials increase their penetration into various transportation markets. In support of this goal, specific objectives of the report include:
Identifying the lightweight materials with the greatest commercial potential in transportation applications over the next five years (2012 to 2017).
Estimating the potential global markets for these technologies.
Analyzing the technical, commercial and other prerequisites of success in these markets.


The report is intended especially for manufacturers and users of lightweight materials in the transportation equipment industry. Although the report is structured around specific technologies, it is largely nontechnical in nature and concerned primarily with markets, pricing, competition and other marketing-related issues.As such, the report’s intended audience is mainly marketing executives, entrepreneurs, investors, venture capitalists and other readers with a need to know where the transportation market for lightweight materials is headed in the next five years. The report is not written specifically for scientists and technologists, although its findings regarding the market for their work, including the availability of government and corporate research funding for different technologies and applications, should interest them as well.Others who should find the report informative include government agencies, environmental and public policy interest groups focusing on transportation, energy conservation, the environment and sustainable development in general.


The report is global in scope, focusing on the worldwide market for lightweight materials in transportation equipment, including motor vehicles, aircraft, trains and ships. Lightweight materials are defined broadly as materials that are used in the fabrication of equipment primarily in order to minimize weight.As the term is used in this report, transportation equipment includes all motorized vehicles or craft used to convey people, animals or cargo between two points, except for vehicles/craft used exclusively for sports or recreation applications (e.g., glider aircraft and sailboats). Sports and recreation vehicles and craft are excluded in part because they are the subject of another BCC report, AVM053A Materials and Devices for High-Performance Sports Products. In this report, dual-purpose transportation equipment, such as small airplanes, is analyzed along with vehicles and craft whose purpose is primarily commercial.

The report also does not cover motor vehicles, ships and aircraft built for and used by the armed forces of the United States and other nations.


The information sources and methodologies used to develop the market projections in this report are discussed at length in the section “Global Market for Lightweight Materials in Transportation Applications, 2011 through 2017/Detailed Market Estimates and Projections.” In general, BCC used the following approach:

Identified commercial as well as promising developmental materials and their target markets through a literature review and interviews with industry experts.
Estimated baseline (2011) market penetration ratio for each material and target market.
Developed forecasts of growth trends in each target market.
Analyzed technical, economic and other factors that will influence the ability of different materials to compete for a share of their respective market(s) and estimated future consumption of each material on this basis.

The report estimates the market for each technology in unit as well as cost terms. Average cost data were obtained from a variety of sources, including industry publications, manufacturers’ price lists and contacts with industry sources. Where possible, BCC has projected 2017 prices based on factors such as historical price trends, supply-demand relationships and overall levels of production.The report carefully documents data sources and assumptions. In this way, readers can see how the market estimates were developed and, if they so desire, they can test the impact on the final numbers of changing assumptions such as price.

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