Reducing Automotive CAPEX Entry Barriers

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Van Buren Township, Michigan
Project Term:
01/01/2015 - 09/30/2015

Critical Need:

Conventional car manufacturing is extremely capital and energy-intensive. Due to these limitations, major auto manufacturers produce very similar, if not virtually identical, vehicles at very large volumes. This limits potential customization for different users and acts as a barrier to entry for new companies or production techniques. Better understanding of the cost barriers for low-volume production, and the role innovative production techniques can play in reducing or eliminating barriers would be very beneficial. This could make low-volume vehicles viable, accelerate the adoption of new production techniques, and enable lightweight materials to be utilized in the competitive marketplace. The results could include increasing vehicle utility, decreasing vehicle purchase price, and increasing fuel economy.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

Ricardo will develop a detailed cost model for 10 key automotive components (e.g. chassis, powertrain, controls, etc.), analyzing the investment barriers at production volumes. Prior studies of innovative manufacturing processes and lightweight materials have used differing cost analysis assumptions, which makes comparison of these individual studies difficult. The backbone of the project will be a detailed economic model built on a set of common assumptions that will allow the root cause of cost barriers to be identified. The model will then evaluate emerging alternative manufacturing techniques to determine how they might reduce or remove these barriers. This model will utilize a consistent set of assumptions, allowing for an accurate comparison of potential manufacturing techniques. If successful, this cost model will enable private-sector firms to make informed investment decisions, increasing the deployment of innovative vehicle technologies and saving the average consumer money.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Ping Liu
Project Contact:
Dr. Marc Wiseman
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


United Technologies Research Center

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