Carbon fiber, composites, aluminum and other low-mass alternatives may grab most of the headlines when it comes to weight-reduction solutions for tomorrow's vehicles, but GM is confident there's still a good deal of untapped potential in new formulations of the industry's traditional standby, steel. To that end, General Motors Ventures has invested an undisclosed amount of money in the NanoSteel Company, a recognized leader in the realm of advanced nano-structured steel materials that promise many of the same benefits. With today's automotive steels market conservatively estimated in excess of $100 billion, the automaker believes it's taking a well-calculated risk that could pay big dividends in the long run.
NanoSteel has created a new class of patented steel alloys that offer superior strength to accommodate all safety considerations but are thinner, lighter and more affordable than other more exotic materials, many of which have their own downsides with respect to additional investment required for production technologies and performance limitations.
"We are investing in NanoSteel because of the opportunity associated with their new steel alloy technology," said Jon Lauckner, GM's chief technology officer, vice president of Global R&D and president of GM Ventures LLC. "Over the next several years, light-weighting of vehicles will be a major focus area to improve fuel economy. NanoSteel's nano-structured alloys offer unique material characteristics that are not available today, making them a potential game-changer."