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2021 Activities at WorldAutoSteel

2021 Activities at WorldAutoSteel

Greetings from the virtual offices of WorldAutoSteel! I thought it would be a good idea, as AHSS Insights’ Editor, to let you know what is happening here at WorldAutoSteel at the beginning of 2021.

Steel E-Motive – a new industry demonstration

No doubt you have received some emails about our Steel E-Motive program. If you are familiar with WorldAutoSteel’s history, you know our roots are in the UltraLight Family of Research and FutureSteelVehicle, geared to demonstrate the latest steel solutions for vehicle structures of their times.

Our member companies believe that the best way to show steel capabilities is to demonstrate them, and we have done that with body structures, closures and suspensions in the past. Now we are embarking on a whole new adventure, demonstrating the future of steel products and manufacturing technologies in the development of body structures for Level 5 autonomous, electric, ride sharing/hailing vehicles for Mobility as a Service (MaaS). The challenges and opportunities in these vehicles are creating a lot of excitement here as we work together with Ricardo, our world-class engineering partner, and our global steel members, to discover viable steel solutions for this new market.

Shaping the future of sustainable mobility through steel innovationFor me personally, as my sixth experience with steel industry demonstration programs, it has been an exciting ride to see us once again tackle a major program like this, not to mention doing so in a year when we cannot meet and communicate face to face.

Our usual practice is to meet somewhere in the world around a common table several times a year, break up into working groups tackling various topics, brainstorming together with our engineering partner. Until we can once again freely move around the world, we are doing the same thing everyone else is—meeting virtually, with sometimes 40+ people on a call, with often 15 different native languages represented, gathered around a virtual white board. I’m sure many of you have felt the same struggle of making sure everyone has a voice in that setting.

In September 2020, we had 17 web conferences, including whole team meetings, sub-team working groups with subject matter experts, and even OEM advisory groups as we closed in on the end of our Phase 0 decision making. Despite the complications, we’ve been able to get the tasks done, and done well.

But what really excites me the most is that in a year of such uncertainty amid a global pandemic, the steel industry chose to move forward with its plans to invest in the future with new vehicle applications and steel innovation. I cannot be prouder of that bold decision. And we cannot wait to start showing you what we are doing. Unlike our other programs where we made a big announcement at the beginning of a program and then were silent until the end, Steel E-Motive is continuously communicating all the way along our development timeline until we finish at the end of 2022.

Get ready to don your Oculus goggles – we will be releasing VR eventually to show you our designs. Sign up for updates at so you are sure to receive our news.


AHSS Application Guidelines DATABASE

Yes, that says database! Many of you are familiar with our 400+ page tome on the metallurgy, forming and joining of Advanced High-Strength Steels. Like any big reference book, it is daunting, yet it is the most popular document on our website, with people from all over the world still downloading the last volume released in 2017. We have had a three-year cadence of updates stretching all the way back to the late 1990s, authored at that time by Dr. Stuart Keeler. Now it is time to get it off the shelves, and onto the web where it can be more easily searched, and even better, more consistently updated with rapidly evolving technology and best practice experience.


Dr. Daniel Schaeffler, President and CEO, Engineering Quality Solutions, Inc., is authoring the Metallurgy and Forming information, and Menachem Kimchi, Associate Professor of Practice in the Welding Engineering program at The Ohio State University, is authoring the Joining section. Each is drawing from a world of resources and our steel member experts to make sure they are adding the best and most recent information. Our fingers are a bit raw from adding article after article of new data!

We are also, wherever possible, linking to all referenced technical papers that are available through scientific journals and other sites. Our clickable citations thus far number over 500 with probably two-thirds linked to the source papers. We are not just creating an online volume; we’re building a community of resources on Advanced High-Strength Steels to which you will want access if you have anything to do with vehicle engineering and material application.

We’re expecting to launch the new database in May 2021. If you received an email for this blog, then you’ll get notified when the database will become available too. If someone forwarded you this article, make sure you Subscribe. The AHSS Insights blog will be integrated with the whole database, and will be its combined home. Spread the word!

We think we have a nice lineup of blogs for the remainder of this year. Next month, we will release a summary article on press-hardened steel usage, written for the new Guidelines, that we think you’ll find interesting, as well as a bit of an appetizer of things to come.
Thank you, loyal readers. From all the staff at WorldAutoSteel, we send you best wishes to stay safe, stay healthy and make every day count.

Kind regards,

Kate Hickey
Editor, AHSS Insights

kathleen hickey










Upgraded Tool Steels for Upgraded Sheet Metal Forming

Upgraded Tool Steels for Upgraded Sheet Metal Forming

We thank Dennis McPikeZapp Tooling Alloys, Inc., for contributing this case study.


Multi-phase steels are complex to cut and form, requiring specific tooling materials. The tooling alloys which have been used for decades, such as D2, A2 or S7, are reaching their load limits and often result in unacceptable tool life. The mechanical properties of the sheet steels achieve tensile strengths of up to 1800 MPa with elongations of up to 40%. Additionally, the tooling alloys are stressed by the work hardening of the material during processing.

The challenge to process AHSS quickly and economically makes it necessary for suppliers to manufacture tooling with an optimal tool steel selection. The following case study illustrates the tooling challenges caused by AHSS and the importance of proper tool steel selection.

A manufacturer of control arms changed production material from a conventional steel to an Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS), HR440Y580T-FB, a Ferrite-Bainite grade with a minimum yield strength of 440 MPa and a minimum tensile strength of 580 MPa. However, the tool steels were not also changed to address the increased demands of AHSS, resulting in unacceptable tool life and down time.

According to the certified metal properties, the 4 mm thick FB 600 material introduced into production had a 525 MPa yield strength, 605 MPa tensile strength, and a 20% total elongation. These mechanical properties did not appear to be a significant challenge for the tool steels specified in the existing die standards. But the problems encountered in production revealed serious tool life problems.

To form the FB 600 the manufacturer used D2 steel. D2 was successful for decades in forming applications. This cold work tool steel is used in a wide variety of applications due to its simple heat treatment and its easily adjustable hardness values. In this case, D2 was used at a hardness of RC 58/60.

While tools manufactured from D2 can withstand up to 50,000 load cycles when forming conventional steels, these particular D2 tools failed after only 5,000 – 7,000 cycles during the forming of FB 600. The first problems were detected on a curl station where mechanical overload caused the D2 tools to break catastrophically, as seen in Figure 1. Since the breakage was sudden and unforeseeable, each failure of the tools resulted in long changeover times and thus machine downtime.

Figure 1:   Breakage seen in control arm curl tool made from D2, leading to premature failure. Conversion to a PM tool steel having higher impact resistance led to 10x increase in tool life.

Figure 1: Breakage seen in control arm curl tool made from D2, leading to premature failure. Conversion to a PM tool steel having higher impact resistance led to 10x increase in tool life.


Since the cause of failure was a mechanical breakage of the tools, a tougher alternative was consequently sought. These alternatives, which included A2 and DC53 were tested at RC 58-60 and unfortunately showed similar tool life and failures.

Metallurgical analysis indicated that the failure resulted from insufficient impact strength of the tool steel. This was caused by the increased cross-cut that the work-hardened AHSS exerted on the curl. As an alternative material, a cold work steel with a hardness of 58-60, a tensile strength of about 2200 – 2400 MPa and high toughness was sought. These properties could not be achieved with conventional tool steels. The toolmaker used a special particle metallurgy (PM) tool steel to obtain an optimum combination of impact strength, hardness and wear resistance.

Particle metallurgy (PM) tool steels, due to their unique manufacturing process, represent improvements in alloy composition beyond the capabilities of conventional tool steels. Materials with a high alloy content of carbide formers such as chromium, vanadium, molybdenum and tungsten are readily available. The PM melting process ensures that the carbides are especially fine in particle size and evenly distributed (reference Table 1). This process results in a far tougher tool steel compared to conventional melting practices.

Table 1: Elemental Composition of Chosen Tool Steel

Table 1: Elemental Composition of Chosen Tool Steel


The manufacturer selected Z-Tuff PM® to be used at a hardness of RC 58-60. Employing the identical hardness as the conventional cold work steel D2, a significant increase in impact strength (nearly 10X increase as measured by un-notched Charpy impact values) was realized due to the homogeneous microstructure and the more evenly distributed precipitates. This positive effect of the PM material led to a significant increase in tool life. By switching to the PM tool steel, the service life is again at the usual 40000 – 50000 load cycles. By using a steel with an optimal combination of properties, the manufacturer eliminated the tool breakage without introducing new problems such as deformation, galling, or premature wear.

AHSS creates tooling demands that challenge the mechanical properties of conventional tool steels. Existing die standards may not be sufficient to achieve consistent and reliable performance for forming, trimming and piercing AHSS. Proper tool steel grade selection is critical to ensuring consistent and reliable tooling performance in AHSS applications. Powder metallurgical tool steels offer a solution for the challenges of AHSS.


Roll Forming AHSS

Roll Forming AHSS

Roll Forming takes a flat sheet or strip and feeds it longitudinally through a mill containing several successive paired roller dies, each of which incrementally bend the strip into the desired final shape. The incremental approach can minimize strain localization and compensate for springback. Therefore, roll forming is well suited for generating many complex shapes from Advanced High-Strength Steels, especially from those grades with low total elongation such as martensitic steel. Figure 1 provides an example of a roll forming line.

Figure 1: Example Roll Forming Line1

Figure 1: Example Roll Forming Line1


The number of pairs of rolls depends on the sheet metal grade, finished part complexity, and the design of the roll forming mill. A roll forming mill used for bumpers may have as many as 30 pairs of roller dies mounted on individually driven horizontal shafts.2

Roll forming is one of the few sheet metal forming processes requiring only one primary mode of deformation. Unlike most forming operations which have various combinations of forming modes, the roll forming process is nothing more than a carefully engineered series of bends. In roll forming, metal thickness does not change appreciably except for a slight thinning at the bend radii.

Roll forming is appropriate for applications requiring high-volume production of long lengths of complex sections held to tight dimensional tolerances. The continuous process involves coil feeding, roll forming and cutting to length. Notching, slotting, punching, embossing, and curving combine with contour roll forming to produce finished parts off the exit end of the roll forming mill. In fact, companies directly roll form automotive door beam impact bars to the appropriate sweep and only need to weld on mounting brackets prior to shipment to the vehicle assembly line.2  Figure 2 shows example automotive applications that are ideal for the roll forming process.

Figure 2: Body components that are ideally suited for roll-forming.

Figure 2: Body components that are ideally suited for roll-forming.


Roll forming can produce AHSS parts with:

  • Steels of all levels of mechanical properties and different microstructures.
  • Small radii depending on the thickness and mechanical properties of the steel.
  • Reduced number of forming stations compared with lower strength steel.

However, the high sheet-steel strength means that forces on the rollers and frames in the roll forming mill are higher. A rule of thumb says that the force is proportional to the strength and thickness squared. Therefore, structural strength ratings of the roll forming equipment must be checked to avoid bending of the shafts. The value of minimum internal radius of a roll formed component depends primarily on the thickness and the tensile strength of the steel (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Achievable minimum r/t values for bending and roll forming for different strength and types of steel.3

Figure 3: Achievable minimum r/t values for bending and roll forming for different strength and types of steel.3


As seen in Figure 3, roll forming allows smaller radii than a bending process. Figure 4 compares CR1150/1400-MS formed with air-bending and roll forming. Bending requires a minimum 3T radius, but roll forming can produce 1T bends.4

Figure 4: CR1150/1400-MS (2 mm thick) has a minimum bend radius of 3T, but can be roll formed to a 1T radius.4

Figure 4: CR1150/1400-MS (2 mm thick) has a minimum bend radius of 3T, but can be roll formed to a 1T radius.4


The main parameters having an influence on the springback are the radius of the component, the sheet thickness, and the strength of the steel. As expected, angular change increases for increased tensile strength and bend radius (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Angular change increases with increasing tensile strength and bend radii.5

Figure 5: Angular change increases with increasing tensile strength and bend radii.5



Figure 6 shows a profile made with the same tool setup for three steels at the same thickness having tensile strength ranging from 1000 MPa to 1400 MPa. Even with the large difference in strength, the springback is almost the same.

Figure 6: Roll formed profile made with the same tool setup for three different steels. Bottom to Top: CR700/1000-DP, CR950/1200-MS, CR1150/1400-MS.3

Figure 6: Roll formed profile made with the same tool setup for three different steels. Bottom to Top: CR700/1000-DP, CR950/1200-MS, CR1150/1400-MS.3


The Auto/Steel Partnership, “Steel Bumper Systems for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” (Sixth Edition)6 provides guidelines for roll forming High-Strength Steels:

  • Select the appropriate number of roll stands for the material being formed. Remember the higher the steel strength, the greater the number of stands required on the roll former.
  • Use the minimum allowable bend radius for the material in order to minimize springback.
  • Position holes away from the bend radius to help achieve desired tolerances.
  • Establish mechanical and dimensional tolerances for successful part production.
  • Use appropriate lubrication.
  • Use a suitable maintenance schedule for the roll forming line.
  • Anticipate end flare (a form of springback). End flare is caused by stresses that build up during the roll forming process.
  • Recognize that as a part is being swept (or reformed after roll forming), the compression of metal can cause sidewall buckling, which leads to fit-up problems.
  • Do not roll form with worn tooling, as the use of worn tools increases the severity of buckling.
  • Do not expect steels of similar yield strength from different steel sources to behave similarly.
  • Do not over-specify tolerances.

Guidelines specifically for the highest strength steels6:

  • Depending on the grade, the minimum bend radius should be three to four times the thickness of the steel to avoid fracture.
  • Springback magnitude can range from ten degrees for 120X steel (120 ksi or 830 MPa minimum yield strength, 860MPa minimum tensile strength) to 30 degrees for M220HT (CR1200/1500-MS) steel, as compared to one to three degrees for mild steel. Springback should be accounted for when designing the roll forming process.
  • Due to the higher springback, it is difficult to achieve reasonable tolerances on sections with large radii (radii greater than 20 times the thickness of the steel).
  • Rolls should be designed with a constant radius and an evenly distributed overbend from pass to pass.
  • About 50 percent more passes (compared to mild steel) are required when roll forming ultra high-strength steel. The number of passes required is affected by the number of profile bends, mechanical properties of the steel, section depth-to-steel thickness ratio, tolerance requirements, pre-punched holes and notches.
  • Due to the higher number of passes and higher material strength, the horsepower requirement for forming is increased.
  • Due to the higher material strength, the forming pressure is also higher. Larger shaft diameters should be considered. Thin, slender rolls should be avoided.
  • During roll forming, avoid undue permanent elongation of portions of the cross section that will be compressed during the sweeping process.

Roll forming is applicable to shapes other than long, narrow parts. For example, an automaker roll forms their pickup truck beds allowing them to minimize thinning and improve durability (Figure 7). Reduced press forces are another factor that can influence whether a company roll forms rather than stamps truck beds.

Figure 7: Roll Forming can replace stamping in certain applications.7

Figure 7: Roll Forming can replace stamping in certain applications.7


Traditional two-dimensional roll forming uses sequential roll stands to incrementally change flat sheets into the targeted shape having a consistent profile down the length. Advanced dynamic roll forming incorporates computer-controlled roll stands with multiple degrees of freedom that allow the finished profile to vary along its length, creating a three-dimensional profile. The same set of tools create different profiles by changing the position and movements of individual roll stands. In-line 3D profiling expands the number of applications where roll forming is a viable parts production option.

In summary, roll forming can produce AHSS parts with steels of all levels of mechanical properties and different microstructures with a reduced R/T ratio versus conventional bending. All deformation occurs at a radius, so there is no sidewall curl risk and overbending works to control angular springback.

Authored by Dr. Daniel Schaeffler, President and Chief Executive Officer, Engineering Quality Solutions, Inc.,



1 Courtesy of the Shape Corporation.

2 American Iron and Steel Institute,  “Steel Bumper Systems for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” Seventh Edition, June 2020.

3 Courtesy of D. Eriksson, SSAB Tunnplåt AB.

4 SSAB, “Design Handbook: Structural Design and Manufacturing in High-Strength Steel.”

5 Courtesy of M. Munier, ArcelorMittal.

6 Auto/Steel Partnership, “Steel Bumper Systems for Passenger Cars and Light Trucks,” Sixth Edition, January 2019.

7 T. Grabowski, “2014 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra Body 1500 Cab Structure Review,” Great Designs in Steel, 2013, American Iron and Steel Institute, available at


Geometric Analysis of Sections – GAS2.0

Geometric Analysis of Sections – GAS2.0

A New Software Application for Thin Wall Section Analysis

Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) grades offer increased performance in yield and tensile strength. However, to fully utilize this increased strength, automotive beam sections must be designed carefully to avoid buckling of the plate elements in the section. A new software application, Geometric Analysis of Sections—GAS2.0, available through the American Iron and Steel Institute, is a tool to aid in this design effort.

Plate Buckling in Automotive Sections

To understand how plate buckling affects the strength of a thin walled beam consider Figure 1. A square beam is made of four identical plates connected at their edges. Under an axial compressive load each plate may buckle. Considering just one of the plates, the stress that will cause buckling depends on the ratio of plate width and thickness (b/t). Thinner wider plates with large b/t ratio will buckle at a lower stress than thicker narrower plates.

Figure 1: Plate Buckling Behavior.

Figure 1: Plate Buckling Behavior.


Now consider a plate of mild steel (200 MPa yield stress) which has been designed to buckle just as yield stress is reached, Point A in Figure 2. The plate would have a b/t ratio of approximately 60. This design is taking full advantage of the yield strength of the material.

Now consider the same plate but substituting an AHSS grade (600 MPa yield stress) as shown in Figure 2. The plate will buckle at the same 200 MPa before reaching the material’s potential, Point B in the figure. To take advantage of this materials yield strength, the proportions of the plate will need to be changed, Point C. This illustration demonstrates the need to consider plate buckling particularly in the application of AHSS grades.

Figure 2: AHSS Substitution in a Plate.

Figure 2: AHSS Substitution in a Plate.


Moving from a single plate to the more complex case of a beam section of several plates, consider Figure 3. On the left is the beam made of four plates with a compressive load causing the plates to just begin to buckle. However, this condition does not represent the maximum load carrying ability of the beam. The load can be increased until the stress at the corners of the buckled plates are at the material yield stress, center in Figure 3. Note that in this condition the stress distribution across the plate is nonlinear with lower stress in the center of each plate. One means to model this complex state is by using an imaginary Effective Section. Here the center portion is visualized as being removed and the remainder of the section is stressed uniformly at yield. The amount of plate width to be removed is determined by theory.1, 2, 3, 4 The effective section is a convenient way to visualize the efficiency of a section design given the material grade and provides an estimate of the maximum load carrying ability of the beam.

Figure 3: Concept of Effective Section.

Figure 3: Concept of Effective Section.


Geometric Analysis of Sections – GAS2.0

Geometrical Analysis of Sections software determines the effective section for complex automotive sections. Figure 4 illustrates the GAS2.0 user interface. The user has the ability to construct sections or to import section data from a CAD system. Material properties for 63 steel grades are preloaded with the ability to also add user-defined steel grades. Two types of analysis are available. Nominal analysis, which provides classical area properties of the section, and Effective analysis which determines the effective section at material yield. Figure 5 summarizes both the tabular results and graphical results for each type of analysis.

Figure 4: GAS2.0 User interface.

Figure 4: GAS2.0 User Interface.


Figure 5. GAS2.0 Analysis Results.

Figure 5. GAS2.0 Analysis Results.


Figure 6 illustrates an example of an Effective Analysis for a rocker section. In the graphical screen, the effective section is shown in green. Ideally, the whole section would be effective to fully use the materials yield capability. Also shown in the graphical screen are the section centroid, orientation of the principle coordinates, and stress distribution. In the right text box are tabular results. At the bottom of the tabular results is the axial load that causes this stress state and represents the ultimate load carrying ability of this section.

Figure 6: GAS2.0 Graphical Results.

Figure 6: GAS2.0 Graphical Results.


It is clear that much of the material in the section of Figure 6 is not fully effective. GAS2.0 allows the user to conveniently modify the section. For example, in Figure 7 a bead has been added to the left side wall increasing its bulking resistance. Note that the side wall is now largely effective, and the ultimate load at the bottom of the text box has increased substantially.

Figure 7: Improved Design Concept.

Figure 7: Improved Design Concept.


Role of GAS in the Design Process

GAS2.0 can play a significant role in early stage design, see Figure 8, by quickly creating initial designs which are more likely to function and to ensure that adequate package space is set aside for structure. This will result in fewer problems to fix later in the design sequence. During the detail design stage, GAS2.0 can supplement Finite Element Analysis by identifying problems earlier, and by screening design concepts for those with the greatest promise prior to more detailed analysis by FEA.

Figure 8: Role of GAS2.0 in Design Process.

Figure 8: Role of GAS2.0 in Design Process.


GAS2.0 is available for free download at,  Included in the resources at is an American Iron and Steel Institute introductory webinar conducted by Dr. Don Malen on 16 June 2020, as well as a number of GAS2.0 tutorials and training modules.


1 G. Winter, “Commentary on the 1968 Edition of Specification for the Design of Cold-formed Steel Structural Members,” 1970.

2 American Iron and Steel Institute, “AISI Automotive Steel Design Manual”, June 2004 with 2011 updates.

3 W. Yu, R. A. LaBoube, H. Chen, “Cold-Formed Steel Design”, 2019, ISBN: 978-1-119-48741-8.

4 D. Malen, “Fundamentals of Automobile Body Structure Design”, 2020, ISBN: 978-1-4686-0-1749.

Inventing the First AHSS Road Bike

Inventing the First AHSS Road Bike

An inspiring story

You are most likely wondering why WorldAutoSteel is writing a blog about a bicycle. It is because when we talked to Jia-Uei Chan, Regional Business Development at our member company, thyssenkrupp Steel Europe (TKSe), about the journey of inventing the world’s first Advanced High-Strength Steel road bike, we were incredibly inspired. This is more than a story about a steel bicycle. This is the story of steel innovation, conceived in a WorldAutoSteel members workshop to brainstorm ideas on transforming steel’s image to the sophisticated and advanced material it is. Their journey led to new steel applications, patentable processes, and in the steelworks bicycle, ideas that we think can inspire new automotive applications as well. And anyway, who doesn’t like an inspiring story?

Bikes of this genre have some of the same requirements of modern vehicles: lightweight, strength and durability, affordability, and high performance. To achieve these, the thyssenkrupp steelworks team developed what they called inbike® technology, which combines high-strength steel, half-shell technology and automated laser welding.

How it was made

The bike frame is made from DP 330/590 steel, used for its cold forming abilities, stamped as thin as 0.7mm. The steel blanks are pressed into a die to form two half-shells in a deep-drawing process.

A major challenge was to bring these two half shells together in such a way that minimized gaps and achieved a tight fit, enabling automated laser welding (this process requires no gaps over 6 meters of contact length), while ensuring that the frame achieves an elegant, seamless look. Enter innovation.

At the stamping plant, the half-shells were fitted with “dimples,” (See Figure 1) tiny bumps on the welding flanges that create channels at the weld seam for the zinc, preventing vaporized zinc from remaining trapped in the seam during subsequent welding. The half shells were then clamped in a special device and shipped to the laser specialist (See Figure 2).

Figure 1: Tiny bumps prevent vaporized zinc from remaining trapped in the seam during subsequent welding.

Figure 1: Tiny bumps prevent vaporized zinc from remaining trapped in the seam during subsequent welding.


Figure 2: Frame half-shells clamped in the device for laser welding.


The particular challenge lay in the reliable processing and fusing of both frame halves by means of automated laser welding in such a way that no damage to the frame would occur, while also ensuring the weld seam lay as close as possible to the bend radius of the frame halves. The complex frame shape is welded by following a sophisticated trajectory in a 3-D space. After countless continuous improvement exercises, the steelworks team was able to achieve a very flat, elegant weld seam design. This translates into a very stable bike, with a frame that has the needed rigidity in the bottom bracket area to enable high biomechanical power transmission, but with high elasticity in the seat tube configuration to make for an unusually comfortable ride. In comparison, aluminium and carbon fiber bikes are very stiff and characteristic of an unpleasant ride experience.

Inventing the possibility

Tackling a project that is such a reach beyond the norm is never easy. The thyssenkrupp steelworks team repeatedly heard from qualified experts that the project was actually not feasible. At the same time, they had partners who were so fascinated by the challenge that they wanted to make it possible. Chan related to WorldAutoSteel that there were many times when giving up was the more attractive option. Endurance won out. And as it turns out, the half-shell technology invented out of necessity for this bike could find an application in the tough requirements of an electric vehicle battery case.

Says Chan, “We genuinely believed that steel is the perfect material for a road bike. And we wanted to break with convention and make the most out of steel with high-tech engineering.” Have a look at, and you will undoubtedly agree they did just that.


Estimating Lightweighting Benefits with New Powertrain Models

Estimating Lightweighting Benefits with New Powertrain Models

Dr. Donald Malen, College of Engineering, University of Michigan, reviews the use of two recently developed Powertrain Models, which he co-authored with Dr. Roland Geyer, University of California, Bren School of Environmental Science.

The Need For The Powertrain Models

The use of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) grades offer a means to lightweight a vehicle. Among the benefits of this lightweighting are less fuel used over the vehicle life, and better acceleration performance. Vehicle designers as well as Greenhouse gas analysts are interested in estimating these benefits early in the vehicle design process 5.

Models are constructed for this purpose which range from the use of a simple coefficient, (for example fuel consumption change per kg of mass reduction), to very detailed models accessible only to specialists which require knowledge of hundreds of vehicle parameters. Draw backs to the first approach is that the coefficient may be based on assumptions about the vehicle which do not match the current case. Drawbacks to the detailed models are the considerable expense and time needed, and the lack of transparency in the results; It is difficult to relate inputs with outputs.
A middle way between the simplistic coefficient and the complex model, is described here as a set of Parsimonious Powertrain Models 1, 2, 3. Parsimony is the principle that the best model is the one that requires the fewest assumptions while still providing adequate estimates. These Excel spreadsheet models cover Internal Combustion powertrains, Battery Electric Vehicles, and Plug-in Electric Vehicles, and predict fuel consumption and acceleration performance based on a small set of inputs. Inputs include vehicle characteristics (mass, drag coefficient, frontal area, rolling resistance), powertrain characteristics (fuel conversion efficiency, gear ratios, gear train efficiency), and fuel consumption driving cycle. Model outputs include estimates for fuel consumption, acceleration, and a visitation map.


Physics of the Models

Fuel consumption is determined by the quantity of fuel used over a driving cycle. The driving cycle specifies the vehicle speed vs. time. An example of a driving cycle is the World Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP) cycle shown in Figure 1.

fuel consumption driving cycle WLTP Class 3b

Figure 1: Fuel Consumption Driving Cycle (WLTP Class 3b).


Given the velocity history of Figure 1, the forces on the vehicle resisting forward motion may be calculated. These forces include inertia force, aerodynamic drag force, and rolling resistance. The total of these forces, called tractive force, must be provided by the vehicle propulsion system, see Figure 2.

Figure 2. Tractive Force Required.


Once vehicle speed and tractive force are known at each point of time during the driving cycle, the required torque and rotational speed may be determined for each of the drivetrain elements, as shown in Figure 3 for an Internal Combustion system, and Figure 4 for a Battery Electric Vehicle.

internal combustion powertrain inputs diagram

Figure 3. Internal Combustion Powertrain.


Battery electric powertrain inputs diagram

Figure 4. Battery Electric Vehicle Powertrain.


In this way, the required torque and speed of the engine or motor may be determined. Then using a map of efficiency, shown to the right in Figures 3 and 4, the energy demand is determined at each point in time. Summing the energy demand over time yields the fuel used over the driving cycle. The reader is referred to References 1 and 2 for a much more in depth description of the models.

Example Application

As an example application, consider the WorldAutoSteel FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) 4. The FSV project, completed in 2011, investigated the weight reduction potential enabled with the use of AHSS, advanced manufacturing processes and computer optimization. The resulting material use in the body structure is shown in Figure 5.

futuresteelvehicle steel grade application

Figure 5. FutureSteelVehicle steel grade application.


This use of AHSS allowed a reduction in the vehicle curb mass from 1200 kg to 1000 kg. What are the effects of this mass reduction on fuel consumption and acceleration performance?
The inputs required for the powertrain model are shown in Table 1 for the base case.

model inputs for base case

Table 1: Model Inputs for Base Case


The results provided by the powertrain model are summarized in the acceleration-time vs. fuel consumption graph of Figure 6. Point A is the base case at 1200 kg curb mass. The lightweight case with same engine is shown as Point B. Note the fuel consumption reduction and also the acceleration time reduction. Often the acceleration time is set as a requirement. For the lighter vehicle, the engine size may be reduced to achieve the original acceleration time and an even greater reduction in fuel consumption as shown as Point C.

Figure 6. Summary of results of base vehicle and reduced mass vehicle.


Using the parsimonious powertrain models allows such ‘what-if’ questions to be answered quickly, with minimal data input, and in a transparent way. The Parsimonious Powertrain Models are available as a free download at


1 Geyer, R., Malen, D.E. Parsimonious powertrain modeling for environmental vehicle assessments: part 1—internal combustion vehicles. Int Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2020), JLCA-D-19-00183R1, June 22, 2020
2 Geyer, R., Malen, D.E. Parsimonious powertrain modeling for environmental vehicle assessments: part 2—electric vehicles. Int Journal of Life Cycle Assessment (2020), JLCA-D-19-00250R1, June 15, 2020,
3 Powertrain Excel Models for free download.
4 FutureSteelVehicle Results and Reports, Feb 18, 2015
5 UCSB Automotive Energy & GHG Model, Mar 14, 2017 (The Powertrain Models were used to calculate the Fuel Reduction Value for this model.)