This paper presents a set of metrics used to evaluate short-run knowledge benefits that accrued from research and development (R&D) projects funded in fiscal years 2000–2004 by automotive lightweighting materials (ALM) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Although DOE presents to Congress energy, environmental, and security benefits and costs of its R&D efforts under the Government Performance and Results Act, DOE has yet to include knowledge benefits in that report [U.S. Department of Energy. (2007). Projected benefits of federal energy efficiency and renewable energy programs: FY2008 budget request. NREL/TP-640-41347 (March). Washington, DC: National Renewable Energy Laboratory for DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Retrieved February 12, 2007
ALM focuses on development and validation of advanced technologies that significantly reduce automotive vehicle body and chassis weight without compromising other attributes such as safety, performance, recyclability, and cost [U.S. Department of Energy. (2005a). Automotive lightweighting materials 2004 annual progress report. Washington, DC: DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Retrieved March 30, 2005 from.The ultimate goal of ALM to have lightweighter materials in vehicles hinges on many issues, including the (1) collaborative nature of ALMs R&D with the automobile industry and (2) manufacturing knowledge gained through the R&D effort.
The ALM projects evaluated in this paper yielded numerous knowledge benefits in the short run. While these knowledge benefits are impressive, there remains uncertainty about whether the research will lead to incorporation of lightweight materials by the Big Three automakers into their manufacturing process and introduction of lightweight vehicles into the marketplace. The uncertainty illustrates a difference between (1) knowledge benefits and (2) energy, environmental, and security benefits emanating from R&D.