A Viable Alternative to Metal

Researchers from Gifu University in Japan might have developed a worthy metal gear replacement from two unlikely materials: plastic and carbon fiber.

Metal has long been used in cars because of its toughness, but a new plastic gear made with carbon fiber handles the pressure just as well. The researchers first identified which part of the gear is the weakest. Turns out it’s the teeth that connects to its core. So, they lined it with carbon fiber to strengthen that part, which gives it the same stamina a metal gear has.

Initial tests are promising because the gears hold up just as well as the metal gears do.

This plastic and carbon fiber gear has two major advantages over metal. The first is cost because it’s substantially cheaper than metal. Second, it’s much lighter so if it could help a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and increase its speed.

If all goes well, the gears could be commercialized by 2017. Sadly, it will take a few years after that before they hit the road because of regulatory approvals.

The first electric-powered big rig to hit the public roads in Europe is a 40-ton, zero-emissions behemoth.

The YT202-EV, which is actually built by Dutch manufacturer Teberg, is going into service in Munich. There it will carry car parts for BMW between the company’s manufacturing plant and warehouses belonging to the firm SCHERM. Since it’s just driving around town, the big truck’s 100 km (62 mi) range between charges shouldn’t give its drivers too much range anxiety.

Bimmer says the truck will draw all its electric power from renewable sources. Compared to a standard diesel truck, the company promises, the EV truck will reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 12 tons per years.