PROGRESS AND MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS
The PNGV program has overcome many challenges and has forged a useful and productive partnership of industry and government participants. In addition to the cooperative program, substantial proprietary industry R&D activity has been generated. Teams of industry and government representatives have addressed formidable technical issues and made significant progress on many of them despite the complexity of managing an inter-disciplinary program involving three competing companies, several government agencies, and significant government budget constraints. The program concept cars introduced in January and February of 2000 are important evidence of these activities, but the ongoing R&D program, much of which is summarized in the following sections, is equally significant.
The following summarizes activities for meeting goals 1, 2, and 3 of the program.
The manufacturing competitiveness goal, Goal 1, addresses the need to develop improved manufacturing processes for conventional vehicles, as well as the new-generation vehicles and their components. A wide array of manufacturing issues has been addressed in the cooperative program. Projects to reduce the cost and improve the quality of aluminum structures, drill holes more rapidly, and improve leak testing were completed in 2000–2001. Several projects to facilitate the manufacture of lower-cost, lighter-weight vehicle bodies have been proposed for funding in fiscal year 2002. Manufacturing considerations are being addressed for many of the new components that will be required by the radically different hybrid-electric-vehicle power trains being developed. Also, several longer-term and higher-risk manufacturing projects are at the proposal stage.
Since a large proportion of the components needed to assemble automobiles comes from suppliers, the need for manufacturing improvements extends well beyond the automobile manufacturers themselves. Suppliers are already involved in some PNGV activities, but the PNGV manufacturing program would benefit from expansion of these supplier activities.
The purpose of Goal 2 is to speed the introduction of new technology generated by PNGV R&D into production vehicles. Several manufacturing and engineering analysis tools developed by the program are in use, and significant applications of lightweight materials have been introduced in production vehicles.
The most striking Goal 2 achievement is the announced plans by all three automobile companies to introduce hybrid power trains during the next two to three years in both pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles in a variety of configu