Plasan Carbon Composites, a Bennington company dedicated to automotive carbon fiber technology, will receive a $2.5 million contract from the U.S. Department of Energy to assess how carbon fiber materials would respond in a crash. Plasan specializes in developing body panels and other structural components, particularly for sports cars like the Chevrolet Corvette and the Dodge Viper.
The Plasan contract is one of 40 that where announced by the Department of Energy yesterday, aimed at advancing the technology available for a more sustainable automotive design. Other projects announced will investigate improved fuels, vehicle batteries, and more efficient engine technologies.
According to the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technology Program, one of the most effective ways to increase a vehicle’s fuel economy while decreasing emissions is to reduce the weight of the vehicle. One of the questions that may be addressed in Plasan’s new contract is how to utilize advanced materials to do this while maintaining the safety and comfort of the vehicle.
The contract announcements followed two recent developments in fuel efficiency rules. In July, the Obama administration announced new the federal CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, requiring new cars to run at a minimum of 54.5 mpg by 2025. Earlier this month, the administration also announced a plan to impose fuel consumption regulations on heavy commercial trucks beginning in 2014, which have historically been exempt from federal fuel standards.