When its comes to technology for performance, the Chevrolet Corvette has long been one of the vehicles where Chevrolet pulls out all the stops. Chevrolet has announced that it has debuted a new "smart material" on the new 2014 Corvette Stingray. The 2014 Corvette is the first General Motors vehicle to use a lightweight shape memory alloy wire in place of a heavier motorized actuator to open and close the hatch vent release.
The hatch vent release is designed to release air from the trunk of the Corvette. The vent is important because it allows the trunk lid to close more easily than on previous editions of the Corvette where trapped air made closing the trunk more difficult. Chevrolet says that its shape memory alloy wire is typically made from copper-aluminum-nickel or nickel-titanium.
The material is able to change its shape, strength, or stiffness when activated by heat, stress, a magnetic field, or electrical voltage. The material is able to remember its original shape and return to the original shape when deactivated. In the 2014 Corvette the shape memory alloy wire opens the hatch vent whenever the deck lid is opened using heat from an electrical current in a method similar to how trunk lights activate.
When that wire is activated, it contracts and moves a lever to open the vent allowing the trunk close. When the trunk closes the electrical current turns off, the wire cools, and the vent closes to maintain cabin temperature. Chevrolet says that there are approximately 200 motorized movable parts on a typical vehicle that could be replaced with these lightweight smart materials. With weight reductions one of the common ways automakers such a Chevrolet are attempting to increase fuel economy, replacing these parts with smart materials could mean a significant weight reduction on vehicles moving forward.