General Motors yesterday said that it has invested an undisclosed sum in NanoSteel Co, a steelmaker that has designed a new type of lightweight, high-strength steel that reduces the weight of cars and helps improve fuel efficiency in vehicles.
The Detroit, Michigan-based carmaker said that its venture-capital arm, General Motors Ventures, has joined lead shareholders EnerTech Capital and Fairhaven Capital Partners and five existing investors in bankrolling NanoSteel's new fuel saving technology for the $100 billion-plus automotive steel market.
Through the development of patented alloys, Rhode Island-based privately-held NanoSteel, has created a new type of steel that allows automotive engineers and designers to reduce weight through the use of thinner, higher strength gauges while maintaining the structural strength needed for safety.
Its new steel design is an alternative to other light-weighting materials like aluminium, which may cost more, require new investment in parts production and might have limitations on performance.
Earlier, sheet steel made of nano-structures was considered too brittle to form the shapes required for automotive parts, but NanoSteel's materials are based on newly discovered mechanisms to form nano-structures during production which eliminate the cause of this brittleness since its new automotive advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) technology uses conventional steel processes and not exotic alloy elements.
To date, one of the challenges with currently available AHSS materials is the need to form parts at elevated temperatures, which increases cost and production cycle times.