ULSAB-AVC Will Achieve Advanced Crash Performance in Anticipation of 2004 Criteria

DETROIT, MI, January 5, 2000 –The global steel industry’s ULSAB-AVC project has begun its investigation into strategies for designing very light weight vehicles that also are very safe.

This is the crux of a major challenge facing vehicle makers the world over who are working intensively to overcome the difficult task of building lightweight vehicles that achieve significantly greater fuel economy and yet meet more stringent future safety standards, perform well and remain affordable for their customers.

Building on lessons it learned from previous and continuing UltraLight Steel Auto Body (ULSAB) initiatives, the steel industry’s ULSAB-AVC (Advanced Vehicle Concepts) Consortium has defined a set of safety requirements that are significantly more demanding than current government standards anywhere in the world. As such, the crash targets for ULSAB-AVC anticipate various advances in safety performance that may become government standards by 2004.

Reducing the weight of a vehicle is a straightforward strategy to improve fuel economy, but potentially can create safety issues. For example, in a crash between a vehicle and a stationary object, such as a light pole, a modern, well-designed vehicle, regardless of weight, will manage the crash energy effectively up to the limits of its design.

However, in a crash between a lighter vehicle and a heavier vehicle, physics determine that the heavier vehicle will perform better. Thus, vehicle designers work hard to balance the sometimes competing objectives of better fuel economy and safety in ways that still enable their vehicles to meet government crash standards and consumer demands, which are becoming ever more stringent.

Engineers at Porsche Engineering Services (PES), of Troy, Mich., who are conducting the ULSAB-AVC study, will combine the latest in steel materials and processing technologies with holistic design techniques they applied in ULSAB to achieve the safety targets. In concert with the ULSAB-AVC Consortium, PES defined these safety targets after analyzing global trends, consumer demands for safer vehicles, and government criteria now under consideration for future implementation.

Steel is an excellent material for the purpose of managing crash energy. It is inexpensive and strong. It is an optimal material for designing safe vehicles. It offers engineers the greatest design flexibility for packaging engines, passengers and cargo. Steel is the world’s most recycled metal. It is easy to handle and form into a wide variety of complex shapes.

The latest high-strength steels offer outstanding potential for lightweighting vehicles. Automakers understand this. During the past two decades, high-strength and ultra high-strength steels have been the fastest growing automotive lightweighting materials for structures and body applications.

Scheduled for completion in mid-2001, the ULSAB-AVC project will present advanced vehicle concepts to help automakers use steel more efficiently and provide a structural platform for achieving:

  • Anticipated crash safety requirements for 2004,

  • Significantly improved fuel efficiency,

  • Optimized environmental performance regarding emissions, source reduction and recycling,

  • High volume manufacturability at affordable costs.

Unlike ULSAB, ULSAB-AVC goes beyond the body-in-white and will include the suspension, engine cradle, closures and all structural and safety-related components. It will create conceptual designs; however, there are no plans currently for construction of actual hardware, as in the ULSAB study. PES will simulate the crash events through application of sophisticated computer aided engineering (CAE) techniques.

The simulated crash events that ULSAB-AVC must successfully pass (listed with current U.S. requirements) include:

Crash Event


U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Requirements (Current)

Frontal Impact

35 mph [56 km/h] zero deg. frontal impact against non-deformable barrier (US-NCAP)

30 mph [50km/h] zero deg. frontal impact against non-deformable barrier (US-NCAP FMVSS 208)

Frontal Offset

40 mph [64 km/h] 40% overlap, frontal offset impact against deformable barrier (Euro-NCAP)


Side Impact

38.5 mph [62 km/h] side impact with deformable barrier (Side Impact – SINCAP)

33.5 mph [55.8 km/h] side impact with deformable barrier (Side Impact FMVSS 214)

Rear Impact

30 mph [48 km/h] impact with moving barrier (Rear Impact – FMVSS 301)

30 mph [48 km/h] impact with moving barrier (Rear Impact FMVSS 301)

Roof Crush

Roof Crush plus Rollover (similar to FMVSS 216, but with greater load)

Roof Crush FMVSS 216

Side Pole Impact

20 mph [32 km/h] side impact with 254mm diameter pole (Side Pole Impact)


Three of the ULSAB-AVC tests involve higher impact speeds and/or greater loads than current U.S. standards. (The effect of greater impact speeds is geometric, not linear. For example, the force of the side impact test at 38.5 mph is approximately 32 percent greater than that at 33.5 mph.) Two tests (side pole impact and Euro-NCAP offset) anticipate future U.S. government standards in 2004.

The ULSAB-AVC project will include development of optimized designs for two classes of vehicles:

  • A European C Class, as represented by two benchmark vehicles, the Ford Focus and the Peugeot 206

  • A PNGV* class vehicle, as represented by the Chrysler Cirrus.

* (Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles is a joint effort of the U.S. government and DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. to design and build driveable prototype vehicles by 2004 that achieve up to 80 mpg, while maintaining size, safety, functionality and affordability of benchmark 1994-era, five passenger sedans.)

At 1,068 kilograms (kg) (2,350 pounds), the Ford Focus is a true C Class size vehicle and meets current U.S. and European government safety standards. The Peugeot 206 is slightly smaller at 909 kg (2,000 pounds) and provides for detailed benchmarking of the mass of its components. (The Peugeot 206 is available for sale only in Europe and does not have to meet U.S. safety standards.)

For the PNGV vehicle, ULSAB-AVC will follow the design and engineering targets set for that vehicle, except for structural and crash performance. The Consortium has increased these latter two requirements to comply with anticipated standards of 2004. Among the key assumptions for the PNGV program is that its target vehicles will meet present and future Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).

Based on results of benchmarking against these vehicles, as well as others, ULSAB-AVC will set targets for such elements as:

  • Total vehicle mass, subsystem and component mass, vehicle dimensions and performance (U.S. standard and European standard),

  • CO2 emissions and related fuel consumption

  • Vehicle features including safety equipment, comfort features (e.g., air conditioning, audio system, electronic seats)

  • Crashworthiness

  • Structural performance of the body structure including torsional rigidity, bending rigidity, normal mode frequencies

  • Aerodynamic drag

  • Affordability (total vehicle cost)

ULSAB-AVC is the latest in a series of steel industry initiatives that offer steel solutions to vehicle makers, government regulators and environmentalists around the world, which improve the automobile’s environmental profile through increased fuel efficiency, while improving safety and performance and maintaining affordability. In addition to ULSAB and ULSAB-AVC, other initiatives include ULSAC for closures (doors, hoods, deck lids, hatchbacks), ULSAS (suspensions) and LTS (North American Light Truck Structures study). The steel industry also is a key participant in IMPACT (Improved Materials & Powertrain Architectures for 21st Century Trucks), a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)-sponsored program to develop strategies for reducing weight, enhancing performance, improving mobility and increasing fuel economy of tactical trucks for the U.S. Army.

From now until the completion of the concept study in mid-2001, the ULSAB-AVC Consortium, which comprises 33 of the world’s leading steel companies from 21 countries, will continue to issue periodic reports on its progress to inform key stakeholders and to elicit constructive feedback. With this approach, the consortium seeks to enhance its contribution to state-of-art thinking and understanding about how best to achieve and balance often conflicting objectives in the design, construction and marketing of safe, affordable, fuel efficient and environmentally responsible vehicles.

These reports, called "Technology Transfer Dispatches," are available on http://www.autosteel.org and will provide greater detail and data than this and subsequent releases offer.

The Automotive Applications Committee (AAC) is a subcommittee of the Market Development Committee of AISI and focuses on advancing the use of steel in the highly competitive automotive market. With offices and staff located in Detroit, cooperation between the automobile and steel industries has been significant to its success. This industry cooperation resulted in the formation of the Auto/Steel Partnership, a consortium of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors and the member companies of the AAC.

This release and other steel-related information are available for viewing and downloading at American Iron and Steel Institute/Automotive Applications Committee’s website at http://www.autosteel.org.

American Iron and Steel Institute/
Automotive Applications Committee:
AK Steel Corporation
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Dofasco Inc.
Ispat Inland Inc.
National Steel Corporation
Rouge Steel Company
Stelco Inc.
United States Steel Corporation
WCI Steel, Inc.
Weirton Steel Corporation