Study Claims That Composites Can Almost Halve Truck Weight

New lightweight materials such as composites will play an increasingly large role in the heavy vehicles of tomorrow, particularly in city buses and distribution trucks.

Working in association with researcher Magnus Burman from Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Scania is investigating the potential for using lighter materials in both chassis structures and other load-bearing parts of vehicles.

Our studies show that weight savings of up to 40% can be achieved if key load-bearing parts are replaced with lighter materials.

Reduced vehicle weight, or so-called structural weight, means more cargo per transport shipment and, as a result, the potential for fewer runs. This represents a major opportunity both for the environment and for future electrified solutions of various kinds.

Heavy goods distribution trucks often carry bulky loads, so the weight savings are not great, but an electric truck’s range is highly dependent on the vehicle’s weight. Halving the weight here means doubling the range per load.

Composite materials currently have a high purchase price, but when viewed from a lifecycle perspective they make good economic sense. On top of the low weight, composite materials provide strength and rigidity, while fatigue and ageing aren’t generally seen as problems. Composites also don’t rust, and they don’t degrade in the same way as metal structures.

Another advantage with composite use in chassis structures is that it’s possible to create larger integrated structures than with steel. This means fewer joints, which in turn further reduces weight. The researchers say that tomorrow’s vehicles will be made from a bigger mix of materials, with a focus on both function and weight.

From these studies Scania has produced a vision for an integrated lightweight chassis made from carbon fibre composite-material and adapted for use in a long-range, completely electric vehicle.

The light, self-supporting structure borrows materials and design concepts from the aviation industry. The battery is located in the space in the middle.