A new alliance between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Army (DOA) to promote the development of clean energy technologies has the potential to drastically benefit composites manufacturers.
Through the Advanced Vehicle Power Technology Alliance (AVPTA), announced in mid-July, the two departments will leverage resources to foster development of technologies to improve ground vehicle power and meet U.S. energy efficiency goals, as well as speed military and commercial adoption of those technologies.
“The whole purpose of the alliance is to identify technology in which the DOE and DOA have common interest and a common background,” says Bruce Huffman, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), based in Warren, Mich. The DOA, Huffman says, will gain access to the DOE’s portfolio of cutting-edge clean energy technologies, while the DOE will gain an outlet to transition the technologies to a broader user base.
Among the technologies singled out for promotion by the alliance are “lightweight structures and materials,” including composite components such as space frames, carbon fiber and hybrid designs. Though lightweight composites have been used in a variety of military and commercial applications, factors including cost, joining technology and repair have kept them from being used on vehicles, says Pat Davis, vehicle technologies program manager for the DOE. Through the AVPTA, the two departments will work to overcome those challenges.
Richard Gerth, with TARDEC’s National Automotive Center, in Warren, Mich., says the alliance will help composites manufacturers develop their technologies by working with the military, as well as find ways to make them more cost efficient.
“We can provide an early opportunity for manufacturers to get their best materials or manufacturing processes—multi-material joining, advanced resin, low-cost carbon fiber—and try to work with us to develop it,” Gerth says. “Manufacturers can work with DOE to transition to us through our supply chains and improve their ability to mass produce for others in the future.”
Though details are still being hammered out, Eric Kallio, also with the National Automotive Center, says the formation of the alliance will not result in any operational changes for composites manufacturers already working with TARDEC or DOE. Information submitted to either department, for instance, through TARDEC’s ground vehicle gateway (online at https://tardec.groundvehiclegateway.com/)—will be visible to both.
“Companies can submit technology offerings to us that they think would be of interest to TARDEC, and those could be identified as possible dual-use, joint TARDEC-DOE opportunities,” Kallio says.