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Huntsman Advanced Materials has been instrumental in an innovative student project that showcases the possibilities of building a lightweight, fuel efficient hybrid concept car using sustainable, high-performance composite materials.
The ‘XAM’ has been designed and manufactured by a student team from the Polytechnic of Turin named H2politO. The H2politO team was set up in 2007 to investigate the possibilities of designing, building and testing energy efficient vehicles to compete in the Shell Eco-marathon Europe. With annual events in the Americas, Europe and Asia, the winners are the teams that go the furthest distance using the least amount of energy. Following the completion of the first project designing an aerodynamic three-wheel prototype, the team moved on to focus on the Shell Eco-marathon 2010-2011 season with the ‘eXtreme Automotive Mobility’ project and design of the ‘XAM’.As Massimiliana Carello, Assistant Professor and Faculty Advisor of Team H2politO explains, the successful integration of a blend of renewable flax and carbon fibre composites represented a significant factor in increasing the performance and uniqueness of the hybrid vehicle’s design.“While observing the rules of the Shell Eco-marathon, our focus has always been firmly fixed on the very real needs of the car designs of tomorrow. Minimising fuel consumption and maximising performance through developing a lightweight, yet strong vehicle structure represented the guiding principles that the team adhered to right from the start, and evaluating the extensive application of composite materials was crucial to the fulfilment of this goal.”The attractive, streamlined shape of the ‘XAM’ highlights the superb quality of finish that can be achieved by using Huntsman Advanced Materials’ RenShape® styling and modelling boards in combination with a gel coat and Araldite® laminating resin systems.The advanced processing properties of the selected Huntsman materials allowed H2politO to realise significant manufacturing cost and time savings through facilitating shorter production cycles and out-of-autoclave production techniques. This ultimately led to the fast and efficient completion of the project within a short nine month period.Once the RenShape® modelling boards were milled, XD 4615 / Ren® HY 5159 gel coat was applied to enable the hand lay-up of the flax and carbon fibre materials and an efficient way of quickly producing an A class surface - as per the rules set by Shell Eco-marathon Europe.Key cockpit components and the body panels have been made from flax and carbon fibre reinforced and laminated by hand lay-up with Araldite® LY 3297 / Aradur® 3298. This low viscosity, easy handling epoxy resin system offers excellent mechanical and dynamic properties that help to maintain the strength and light weight of the ‘XAM’. Supporting faster processing and shorter production cycles, H2politO used Araldite® LY 3297 / Aradur® 3298 to produce the prototype’s composite components out-of-autoclave, using a vacuum bag treatment which served to provide significant manufacturing cost savings.“Thanks to the Araldite® laminating system we have been able to maximise the use of composites to achieve an unprecedented level of design and surface quality finish on the ‘XAM’,” commented Alessandro Ferraris, Project Manager of ‘eXtreme Automotive Mobility’. “With the consistent, high quality of its materials and the support given in partnership, Huntsman has played an important role in assisting us to provide a practical response to the issue of urban mobility and the need to design lighter weight passenger vehicles that consume less fuel and produce less harmful emissions. In allowing our team members and partners to test their ideas on a real working car, the ‘XAM’ has set a significant technological benchmark and triumph in design.”As well as being the only hybrid vehicle, ‘XAM’ was also the only car to feature body panels and an interior passenger compartment made of flax and carbon fibre materials in the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2011. The manufacturing techniques and processing materials used also made the vehicle unique in its class.
"The ‘XAM’ records [...] an official consumption of 100.2 km per litre of fuel and producing just 26 gr/km of CO2[...]"
The ‘XAM’ achieved a number of important goals during the marathon. As well as recording an official consumption of 100.2 km per litre of fuel and producing just 26 gr/km of CO2, it was also awarded the Shell Eco-marathon Design Award prize within the Urban Concept class category. Highlighting the innovative qualities of its design, this award is given to the car which displays the best engineered system in terms of its aesthetic lines, mechanical capabilities and attention to detail.Involvement in H2politO’s ‘eXtreme Automotive Mobility’ project is in line with Huntsman’s ongoing commitment to enrich lives through innovation as a pioneer in sustainable solutions. It also follows the company’s involvement with a previous Shell Eco-marathon award winner where an Araldite® laminating system was used by the National Institute of Applied Science and Paul Sabatier University (France) to produce the TIM 05 concept car, which was awarded the Technical Innovation Prize during the Shell Eco-marathon Europe 2010.Aiming to reduce the dependency on oil and to help optimise its customers’ carbon footprint, Huntsman is focused on the development of future resin composite solutions based on various renewable feedstocks. The company tailors resin formulations that can be used together with natural fibres to meet the mechanical requirement of numerous composite applications. Resin systems reinforced with natural fibres like flax have already been developed for applications in the sports & leisure and automotive markets.