Cars made from recycled cans, lightweight engine technology and practices borrowed from the motor racing and aerospace industries could help cement future success for the region’s automotive sector.
That was the message from West Midland vehicle technology innovators ahead of a Birmingham event looking at research developments in the automotive industry.
The Science Capital event brought together car firms, engineers, academics and investors in a bid to strengthen links between the key drivers in the West Midland sector.
Speakers included representatives of firms like Jaguar Land Rover and turbocharger specialists Aeristech, who gave an insight into the world-leading research happening in the region.
At Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the firm is working on making vehicles lighter and more efficient and is pioneering research into materials – aluminium in particular.
JLR materials engineering manager Andrew Haggie said: "The car industry has been driven by targets driven by European legislation.
"One of the solutions is to throw in electric vehicles and hybrids, but one of the easiest and most tangible solutions is to make the vehicles lighter. That’s what we are doing with aluminium technology and specifically on the Jaguar XJ."
He said aluminium offered many advantages over vehicles with a traditional steel structure.
"Steel cars are normally spot welded so you have these images of car assembly plants with sparks flying everywhere, whereas aluminium technology is more like aerospace – it’s how they make aeroplanes where the aluminium sheet is glued and riveted together," he said.
"That gives a strong and stiff structure compared with a steel vehicle, which helps with the good handling and performance that you need from a sporting saloon."
Mr Haggie said the firm was also working with the Technology Strategy Board on a project looking at recycled aluminium, where items like discarded drinks cans could be melted down for reuse in the automotive sector.