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Hydroforming and new welding methods help reduce vehicle weight

New CAFE standards have automakers reaching for any technology they can find to help improve fuel economy. Many manufacturers are going to electric vehicles or hybrids to increase their overall fleet mileage averages. The problem with focusing only on hybrids and electric vehicles, however, is that most consumers aren't in the market for that type of vehicle.

On traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, automakers are increasingly turning to weight savings as a way to help improve fuel economy. The lighter a vehicle can be made, the less weight the engine has to push or pull around and the less fuel it uses because engines could be made smaller without sacrificing performance.

Some automakers are even turning to removing some features of cars such as CD players and the spare tire to reduce weight according to the Detroit News. Both General Motors and Ford are turning to new processes in vehicle assembly to help remove weight from the body of mainstream vehicles.

2013 Ford Fusion
Many automakers are using aluminum rather than steel to help reduce the weight of their vehicles. Hoods, trunks, and lift gates as well as door skins are commonly made from aluminum today. Ford is also experimenting with carbon fiber on the Focus.

Switching to lighter materials isn't the only way automakers are going about reducing the weight of the vehicles they produce. They're also reducing weight by changing the manufacturing processes used. Ford, for instance, is using hydroforming on the steel structural pillars of its 2013 Fusion.

One of the big benefits of hydroforming is that it allows the forming of complicated and larger parts that don't need to be welded together. Traditional stamping produces multiple parts that have to be welded at joints. Those joints are points of weakness and add weight. Using hydroforming, rather than other forms of stamping, sheds 18 pounds from each car by eliminating the additional welds.

GM is also doing its part testing a thermal-forming process for lightweight magnesium that weighs 75% less than steel. GM also plans to use a patented welding technology to allow the company to integrate more aluminum into automotive bodies by saving the company from using rivets to join aluminum body panels. The use of the welding process rather than rivets will cut nearly 2 pounds from parts such as hoods, lift gates, and doors.

Source: Detroit News

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Bout time
By nglessner on 10/25/2012 10:14:49 AM , Rating: 3
Automakers should look at manufacturing processes of bicycles. Aluminum, carbon fiber, hydro-forming, magnesium alloy, etc have all been used in bicycles for many many years. Recently there has been some research cross-over between cars and bikes - the specalized/mclaren venge is a good example. Keep it going, there are so many improvements that can be made in cars that haven't been explored yet. Hopefully this article is the tip of the iceberg.

RE: Bout time
By Dr of crap on 10/25/2012 10:48:24 AM , Rating: 2
While I agree, is 18 pounds reduction worth the cost?
Welding has to be cheaper then the options pointed out and being looked at.

Also so you remove 18 pounds of weight from the car to sell it to the overweight comsumer who then is sueing you for not getting the mpg numbers promised!

RE: Bout time
By zephyrprime on 10/25/2012 12:30:11 PM , Rating: 2
It may well not be worth the cost indeed but welding is probably more expensive than hydroforming and "thermal" (molding) magnesium processes due to fewer steps involved.

RE: Bout time
By Concillian on 10/25/12, Rating: 0
RE: Bout time
By Souka on 10/25/2012 3:10:32 PM , Rating: 2
I just love the Fiskar Karma... you'd think a sports car would be lightweight?

Well, it weighs in at a hefty 5,300 lbs!!!

Just a FYI :)

RE: Bout time
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 3:35:42 PM , Rating: 2
I just love the Fiskar Karma... you'd think a sports car would be lightweight?

Not a sports car by any measure. It's a luxury yacht.

RE: Bout time
By GTVic on 10/25/2012 6:17:20 PM , Rating: 3
Is this a joke? 18lbs reduction over 60M cars is over 1 billion pounds of metal being saved in one year.

RE: Bout time
By Dan Banana on 10/29/2012 9:56:52 PM , Rating: 2
Where you getting the 18 lb. figure from? It's not in the article above.

RE: Bout time
By Dan Banana on 10/29/2012 10:07:41 PM , Rating: 2
OK never mind. I see it now as regards hydro-forming saving 18 lbs.per car average. All weight loss whether human or automotive it seems to me is a matter of finding multiple ways to cut the fat not just finding one magic do it all bullet. One way to cut the fat quickly for auto companies is to dump the big @ssed SUVs altogether. They are the 2012 automotive equivalent of the bed-ridden 500 lb. man that can't fit through his bedroom door any longer.

RE: Bout time
By jdietz on 10/25/2012 1:44:22 PM , Rating: 2
Fuel efficiency numbers in the US are published by the US EPA, who can't be sued. Automakers aren't liable for the EPA's actions. Automakers usually publish EPA numbers only whether they agree with them or not - this shields them from liability.

RE: Bout time
By wookie1 on 10/25/2012 3:58:41 PM , Rating: 2
I think it was Honda or Toyota that lost a suit in small claims court when a woman showed that she wasn't able to achieve the EPA MPG. Since car companies market their cars based on that rating, it opened the door. If I recall, some appeals court ended up overturning it, but I don't remember on what grounds. The point is, though, that it does appear that the auto companies can be sued over this.

RE: Bout time
By jRaskell on 10/25/2012 5:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
Those lawsuits were prior to the current system.
At the time of those lawsuits, the methods used to rate mpg were 'best case' scenarios that simply weren't possible in the real world.
The EPA completely revamped the methods they used to compute mpg ratings in 2008, primarily because of the lawsuits and general public complaints about the unrealistic ratings that were being used.

RE: Bout time
By AMDftw on 10/25/2012 10:49:59 AM , Rating: 2
Carbon, Mag, and some Aluminum would wold make the price to high. Hydro-F would be a bit more cost effective.

RE: Bout time
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2012 11:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
Aluminum mainly cost more money in the transition. Once it is mainstream it doesn't cost much different. The same thing happened in the bike industry for a while aluminum bikes had a high price tag and now you can buy one for less than $200 at walmart.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 11:25:34 AM , Rating: 3
Apparently you don't seem to understand that

a) high end bicycles that use those processes are very expensive

b) cars use orders of magnitude more material

All this does is drive up the price of vehicles.

RE: Bout time
By Samus on 10/25/2012 11:58:14 AM , Rating: 1
Bicycles are substantially more profitable that cars.

Even if you sell only a few hundred bicycles as a botique builder, your profit margins are enormous. And the crap that comes out of China (Taiwan if you're lucky) on the racks at Walmart for $70 cost less than $10 to manufacture and are generally poorly engineered or using old-school technology (sub $200 hybrid bicycles are finally standardizing disc brake implementation, something most mid-range bicycles have had standard for a decade.)

Granted, as you said, cars use more material than bicycles, but auto manufactures material costs are lower per ton because they buy substantially more than bicycle manufactures. I know of a bicycle builder in San Diego that specializes (not the brand) in titanium frames. The materials for him are almost $1000 for a few tubes. He tells me that Wilson gets titanium for a tenth of what he pays to manufacture golf clubs!

RE: Bout time
By semiconshawn on 10/25/2012 8:09:16 PM , Rating: 1
Bicycles are substantially more profitable that cars

BS. Profit margin might be a higher percentage thats it. Profit comes from more than just margin. I dont see any bicycle billionaires owning NFL teams. Tom Benson does it and he just owns the dealerships. The Automakers made a couple of bucks as well. You let me know when a more profitable bicycle manufacturer posts earnings and profits in the billions.

RE: Bout time
By Samus on 10/27/2012 1:11:31 AM , Rating: 2
I never said bicycle builders or manufactures would be billionaires. I'm just saying they make a larger percentage. The problem is a bicycle cost a fraction to make compared to a car, so obviously the profit is still a fraction of that of a car.

The same goes for bicycle "dealers" which make a hundred bucks per $400-$500 bicycle sold. Auto dealers make many thousands per vehicle sold. Again, fractions. It's take at least 25x-30x more bicycle sales to profit as much a an owner of a chain of auto dealers.

But while you believe I am wrong on profits (and dealer success) I will chime in that Bill Kozy, of Kozy Cycles in Chicago, owns a huge chain of family-owned bicycle shops started by his father in 1944 and is a billionaire. I'm sure there are other mega-successful bicycle shop owners, but that's one I know of personally. He has a bicycle collection equivilent to that of Jay Leno's garage. Some of the rarest, most valuable bicycles in the world, many tour de france-winning bicycles. He has many shown behind cases in his chain of shops.

RE: Bout time
By nglessner on 10/25/2012 12:31:27 PM , Rating: 1

a) I never said I wasn't willing to pay a higher cost.

b) The fact that they use a lot more material makes even MORE sense to use better stuff to begin with.

The truth is, as others have pointed out, we need to reverse the arms-war of who can make a bigger/heavier vehicle. I will give you that heavier usually means a more comfortable ride though... but a counter point is that heavier vehicles wear down the road surfaces faster.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 1:28:47 PM , Rating: 3
It doesn't matter if you are willing to pay more. Many people can't afford to. You guys who say you're for the poor sure don't seem to mind pricing things out of their reach. Like food.

And while yes, bulk buying reduces costs per unit/ton/whatever, there's only so much of certain things. Driving up the cost of aluminum due to increased usage in vehicles drives it up for everything. Look at corn. What has the increased demand for it over other food crops done? Increased the prices of everything that it depends on plus other things due to those things not being grown in favor of cheap, easy corn.

RE: Bout time
By nglessner on 10/25/2012 1:54:16 PM , Rating: 1
lol, this is too easy.

Who says poor people have the inherent god-given right to own a car? If someone chooses to buy a car over food and they're hungry... am I supposed to feel bad about that?

Carbon is plentiful, and as far as I understand it it's cheap to produce once the manufacturing process has been setup. It just has high cost of setup.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 2:20:07 PM , Rating: 2
And where do I say they have a right to a car. If you know anything about me, I believe absolutely the opposite.

But I also don't believe in purposefully pricing things out of people's reach so that others can feel better about themselves.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 2:23:47 PM , Rating: 3
And following your logic, why not just step in and say no gas powered cars. Electric only. Screw all of you that can't afford an electric car. You don't have a right to one.

You going to support that regulation?

RE: Bout time
By Spuke on 10/25/2012 2:52:57 PM , Rating: 3
Who says poor people have the inherent god-given right to own a car?
The point is "you people" claim to champion the poor while continually removing their ability to participate in NEW car ownership. Hypocritical much? Also, by removing their ability to purchase new cars, they have to remain in their less fuel efficient, more polluting, and less safe one's. I thought of point of all this was to get the masses into newer car tech. If only a small percentage change, there is virtually no change.

RE: Bout time
By Stiggalicious on 10/25/2012 2:58:00 PM , Rating: 3
If you're talking about carbon fiber, it takes a tremendous amount of energy to manufacture.

Carbon fiber is made from rayon or polyacrylonitrile strands which are then veeeeery slowly heated to very high temperatures. The slower and hotter, the better the quality of carbon fiber (and the higher cost, which is why Chinese carbon fiber is much cheaper and much weaker as well).

The process takes a whole lot of energy to produce as well as the raw hydrocarbon material. Yes, it's plentiful, but it just takes a whole lot of time, material, and energy.

RE: Bout time
By cknobman on 10/25/2012 2:09:14 PM , Rating: 1
Well the poor need to resort to public transportation then.

Lets hold off progress because its not fair to the poor people, especially the ones who are poor because of shear laziness and stupidity!!!!

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 2:21:08 PM , Rating: 3
See my above response for part of the answer.

But how about we just let automakers build the cars people want to buy? I know its a novel thought but it just might work.

RE: Bout time
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 2:53:37 PM , Rating: 2
There is no public transport in some of the poorest places in the US: rural areas.

RE: Bout time
By cknobman on 10/25/2012 2:09:45 PM , Rating: 1
Well the poor need to resort to public transportation then.

Lets hold off progress because its not fair to the poor people, especially the ones who are poor because of sheer laziness and stupidity!!!!

RE: Bout time
By Spuke on 10/25/2012 2:54:25 PM , Rating: 2
Lets hold off progress because its not fair to the poor people
Boy you people must get tired moving that goal post everywhere.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 4:53:09 PM , Rating: 2
Well their answer is just give them more of other people's money.

RE: Bout time
By tayb on 10/25/2012 5:13:15 PM , Rating: 2
You can't take the added costs in a vacuum. These companies aren't reducing weight just for the hell of it, they're reducing weight to increase fuel efficiency. Added up front cost in exchange for reduced long term fuel related expenses.

It's impossible to say whether it is worth it or not. It would depend on the added cost (no idea), the added fuel efficiency (no idea), and price of fuel over the next 5-6 years (no idea).

RE: Bout time
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2012 11:24:48 PM , Rating: 2
Someone said that Ford already makes a car that poor people can afford, its called the 1998 ford Torus.

RE: Bout time
By lagomorpha on 10/25/2012 1:53:28 PM , Rating: 3
The general rule of thumb is that wear on roads is proportional to the cube of the axle weight times the number of axles. Plug in the numbers and it quickly becomes apparent that almost all the road wear from vehicles is from semi trucks.

RE: Bout time
By Solandri on 10/25/2012 12:05:03 PM , Rating: 2
Keep it going, there are so many improvements that can be made in cars that haven't been explored yet.

It was never an issue of improvements not being explored. When selecting a material for a part, you have multiple dimensions to consider: cost, weight, strength, stiffness, fatigue strength (durability), fracture toughness, ease of manufacture, energy absorption under deformation, and probably a few more I can't think of off the top of my head.

Steel has just about the highest strength-to-cost ratio of any material. That's why it's so popular. Aluminum, carbon fiber, and magnesium alloy all have better strength-to-weight ratios than steel, but are ridiculously expensive compared to steel. They are also inferior to steel in many of the other dimensions I've listed, requiring more material, more expensive tooling, and/or resulting in shorter lifespan.

If you want to mandate higher fuel economy, then understand that it'll come with a price. Steel was used heavily because the auto industry optimized for cost and it offered the most strength for least cost. Now that the industry has to optimize for something other than cost, cost will go up. You wanna know what happens to an industry when it optimizes for weight instead of cost? Just look at prices in aerospace. The metal push-back rod used to back a plane out of a gate broke on a flight I was just on. The pilot reported that it costs $250,000.

Your $1000 high-end bike uses aluminum and magnesium alloy. Your $3000 racing bike uses carbon fiber. Your $250 everyday bike is made of steel. If you really want to draw the bike analogy, then you're proposing turning the $25,000 family sedan into a $100,000 to $300,000 family sedan all in the name of using lighter materials. Does that really make sense?

RE: Bout time
By zephyrprime on 10/25/2012 12:32:00 PM , Rating: 2
aluminum and magnesium have worse strength to weight ratios than steel. Especially magnesium which is very weak.

RE: Bout time
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 1:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
He didn't claim that they were close to steel.

RE: Bout time
By TheDoc9 on 10/25/2012 1:47:35 PM , Rating: 2
That's what I was thinking, these materials definitely don't make cars safer even if they manage to pass a few known crash tests that they can plan and design for.

Of course, the cars will be more expensive as well and it's acceptable because we're saving the environment, right?

RE: Bout time
By madtruths on 10/25/12, Rating: 0
RE: Bout time
By messele on 10/25/2012 4:45:41 PM , Rating: 1
Where on earth do you people get your information from? Aluminium and Magnesium have a massive Strength / Weight ratio advantage over steel for most applications.

The main disadvantage of magnesium is it's reactivity in the event of a fire.

RE: Bout time
By 91TTZ on 10/25/2012 4:49:45 PM , Rating: 2
Where on earth do you people get your information from? Aluminium and Magnesium have a massive Strength / Weight ratio advantage over steel for most applications.

Not as much as you'd think. Aluminum suffers from metal fatigue pretty badly, so you can can't really take full advantage of the higher strength/weight ratio. You have to design around its fatigue limit which is pretty low, which make it roughly the same as steel.

RE: Bout time
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2012 11:39:53 PM , Rating: 2
First of all nobody uses pure steal which is an alloy or pure aluminum. Basically almost all metals used in manufacture are alloys which change the properties of the pure metal a lot. If you look at aerospace aluminum it doesn't have a short fatigue life or readily corrode like pure aluminum. The air force is flying aluminum airframes that are over 50 years old and there is far more flexing in a plane's wing than you will see anywhere on a car. And of course aluminum is stronger by weight than steal otherwise planes would be built out of steal.

RE: Bout time
By Ammohunt on 10/25/2012 1:12:34 PM , Rating: 2
As long as these material do not make up and structural parts of the car otherwise we end up with is less safe expensive cars. It is apparent to me that with the trend towards total dependency on electronic forms of communication that soon we won’t have to drive anywhere instead we would do everything such as ordering supplies and working over a broadband connection.

Still Waiting
By btc909 on 10/25/2012 11:47:19 AM , Rating: 2
Still waiting for a diesel attached to an single speed electric motor ONLY. Or better yet a diesel attached to a capacitor(s) and then to a single speed electric motor. Diesels are very efficient if you run them at a constant steady RPM.

Or if companies like Tesla (Fisker can rot for all I care) can get the cost down, and/or the recharge speed down to around 5 minutes that would put some serious hurt on the traditional gas powered setup.

RE: Still Waiting
By Spuke on 10/25/2012 12:01:41 PM , Rating: 2
No one will pay the price increase of a diesel hybrid. See Volvo how expensive that can get.

RE: Still Waiting
By lightfoot on 10/25/2012 12:02:31 PM , Rating: 2
You want to charge a 40+ KWH battery in 5 minutes?

You better run a line to the top of the clock tower and hope for a lightning storm...

Your power draw would only need to be about 480,000 Watts.

I admit that's nowhere near the 2.21 Gigawatts that Doc brown needed, but good luck with that anyway.

RE: Still Waiting
By danjw1 on 10/25/2012 12:05:23 PM , Rating: 2
Fisker isn't ever going to be very successful. The guy behind it is more about style than engineering. With their cars catching fire, they have a much harder time convincing consumers to adopt their vehicles.

Tesla, needs to keep executing. I guess they have some issues with their supply chain, right now. They need to diversify their suppliers to better protect themselves from supply interruptions. But, building a fun to drive electric car was an important first step.

After the Model S and its derivative Model X, they will be releasing an car priced in the entry level luxury market, ~$30k. This should up their volume. After that, they can shoot for the main stream car market. They aren't a known entity and they need to execute flawlessly, to build a solid reputation.

As far as diesel hybrids, plugin hybrids or extended range EVs, I don't see those catching on in the US. Diesels have been tried in the US before, but just didn't catch on. Maybe they will; It would be a good thing. I am just not sure the US is ever going to get as into diesel as Europe has.

RE: Still Waiting
By btc909 on 10/25/2012 1:12:40 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not suggesting a "diesel hybrid" i'm suggesting a diesel strictly as a power generator with some cheap old capacitors. The diesel engine has no connection to the drive wheels, therefore you can run a diesel at a nice steady RPM generating electrical power with no load from the total vehicles weight or drivers power demands. If you need reserve power it's also drawn from the capacitors. Or if the capacitors are topped off the vehicle runs off of the capacitors and the diesel is slowed or maybe even shut off. Batteries could be offered on higher priced vehicles. But the additional weight of the batteries or packaging issues may make this mute. Mr. Fusion is not available yet so i'll settle for diesel or even CNG or LPG. I would like to see Tesla succeed.

RE: Still Waiting
By esteinbr on 10/25/2012 5:18:18 PM , Rating: 2
Technically that is still a hybrid assuming you are still planning to have regenerative braking. It's just a serial hybrid in stead of a parallel hybrid. I'm pretty sure you'd need to go with batteries across all models. Capacitors just don't hold enough charge to cover what you'd need. You'd end up starting and stopping the engine too often with capacitors draining and filling up too quickly.

RE: Still Waiting
By danjw1 on 10/25/2012 7:38:53 PM , Rating: 2
I was thinking you were suggesting something along the lines of an "extended range EV", like the Chevy Volt. But you just want a generator, with no batteries. I am not sure how efficient that would actually be. You are still wasting energy as heat, as you do with any internal combustion engine. I am not sure if what you are suggesting would be any more efficient than just having a diesel engine.

No need for mister fusion, what we need is an efficient way to crack hydrogen and a safe way to store it in a vehicle. Both are being worked on. I view the work in EVs as predictors to fuel cell vehicles.

In case you didn't know, Tesla just launched their first 5 (6?) supercharging stations in California. Opening up 30 minute charging to half capacity for trips between San Francisco, Los Angeles, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas. There plan is to build out a coast to coast network of them. These are free to Tesla owners.

RE: Still Waiting
By Ammohunt on 10/25/2012 1:26:46 PM , Rating: 2
Diesels haven’t caught on in the US? Ever hear of a Cummins equipped Dodge Ram? If I could get a quality diesel engine in a car I would. Volkswagen and Audi make great Diesel engines if you can afford to fix them monthly. Cummins diesel engines in light duty truck start to break in around 100k Miles to bad they don’t make a model suitable for sedans.

RE: Still Waiting
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 1:38:19 PM , Rating: 2
Cummins diesel engines in light duty truck

"Light" trucks get their own emissions category in the US. It's actually quite hilarious what the EPA considers a "light truck." Would you ever guess that the Chrysler PT Cruiser is one? Or how about all those crossovers that look like tall station wagons? Every minivan and SUV in existence too. In fact, the only things that still qualify as "cars" to the EPA are sedans, small hatchbacks, and sports cars.

RE: Still Waiting
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 1:33:15 PM , Rating: 2
I am just not sure the US is ever going to get as into diesel as Europe has.

Not while the regulations are the way they are. Europe has separate regulations for 'petrol' and diesel cars while the US uses one all-encompassing standard which is more like the EU standard for gasoline, so the diesels have no chance without expensive NOx, CO, and particulate emissions controls. CO2 on the other hand, isn't as big a problem for the diesels.

RE: Still Waiting
By knutjb on 10/29/2012 12:47:42 AM , Rating: 2
Again, for the umpteenth time, diesel cars haven't caught on in the US for reasons that have nothing to do with subject of emissions.

It has to do with the refinement, supply, and consumers of. In the US freight trains are the number one users of diesel. Jet fuel, competes for the same chunk of oil as diesel, is the #2 consumer. Freight trucks are #3. Finally, the few light trucks and cars. Too many diesel cars will push the cost up and make gas vehicles just that much more cost effective.

Unfortunately we have 18-24 different blends of gas to keep environmentalist less unhappy. Those blends will improve emissions in a 20-30 year old vehicle but makes very little impact on new vehicles. Also, refiners have found new markets for their excess gas production, they ship it out.

Some of the other anomalies have been regional refining issues but with all the gucci gas blends we cannot ship blend x to say California because they are obligated to use only blend y. The pipelines are there but we have self inflicted price gouging via overzealous environmentalists and government, not the oil companies. Hey, its all for the environment, how can anyone ever argue with that. Ever see any congressional investigation reports on those big bad oil companies and price gouging? It always ends up being something other than big bad oil.

BTW a standard Honda Civic pollutes less from the exhaust pipe per mile traveled than does a prius and that doesn't include the batteries.

no way around hybrid
By rvd2008 on 10/25/2012 10:55:12 AM , Rating: 2
with engine wasting up to 80% of energy on heat and idling

RE: no way around hybrid
By Florinator on 10/25/2012 12:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
I also think it's time for some innovation in the world of internal combustion engines. After all, not much has changed in 150 years. What's the typical efficiency of a gasoline-powered engine? 25-30%? Come on, that's like technological stone-age...

RE: no way around hybrid
By KFZ on 10/25/2012 12:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
Computer motherboards are still widely using the ancient ATX and x86 standards. Why doesn't the government step in and demand innovation?

Maybe because it's none of their goddamn business?

RE: no way around hybrid
By Florinator on 10/25/2012 12:12:20 PM , Rating: 2
I partly agree with your conclusion, but in the case of engines, there are side-effects. Better gas mileage translates into less pollutants, which benefits all of us, that's why the government make it their business... But I don't mean to fire up the ideological war...

RE: no way around hybrid
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 12:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
Better gas mileage translates into less pollutants, which benefits all of us

But getting better mileage beyond a certain point requires (much) more expensive cars, and more expensive cars means less new car sales, and less new car sales means more old, inefficient cars on the road. The industry knows that green-eco BS sells cars, don't you think they'd do everything that makes economic sense? This is the problem with people who only have their gen-ed econ class to go on. Government interference is only going to cause economic damage.

Gotta say, in many respects
By bill.rookard on 10/25/2012 12:33:28 PM , Rating: 2
This is all a matter of compromise. Physics dictate that in an crash, *in general* a heavier vehicle will offer more protection than in a lighter vehicle. Inertia allows the heavier vehicle to decelerate slower (in other words, carry through farther) - reducing the g-forces experienced by the occupants. A lighter car on the other hand, wont carry through - increasing the g-force on the occupant.

This of course depends on you hitting another mobile vehicle. Hitting a building won't do you much good. Building isn't going anywhere. :)

Contributing to the weight of the vehicle is of course all the safety requirements, mandated by the government. Not always a -bad- thing, but sometimes overkill. Mandatory tire inflation monitors. Mandatory full surround air bags. Minimum crash standards. All of this combines into significantly more weight.

Then - we have the luxury items requested by the buyers (or offered in an attempt to pad profit margins). Leather seats, heated. Soundproofing. Built-in navigation systems with hard drives, AWD, anti-lock brakes.

Meanwhile, on the flip side is fuel economy. More weight? Worse economy. Period. Now this doesn't have much effect while moving (cruising - your economy is governed by aerodynamics), but accelerating from a stop -slaughters- your gas mileage average. Thus - the lighter the car, the less power required to move it.

So where do we draw the line as to what is acceptable? I can certainly see a problem if there were a huge variation in weight out on the road, but being realistic - that's always going to be the case. Some people are going to need heavier vehicles (towing/cargo hauling/people hauling), some people don't. So overall - the weight discrepancy is a moot point and we might as well toss it out.

That leaves us with allowing the manufacturers to build the small cars as strong as possible to minimize damage while still hitting their fuel economy points. And - incremental reductions will eventually add up to significant overall reductions, then the processes can be carried over to other vehicles.

Personally I think manufacturers should really start offering what would be considered 'stripper' models of their vehicles. No, not ones that only strippers would drive, but totally pared down vehicles without the electric everything. I had a 83 Mustang. No power windows. No power locks. No cruise control. No remote trunk latch. Basic radio. No air conditioning. Came like that from the factory and went like stink. Why? No excess weight. Came in at just a stitch under 3000lbs - with a full iron block/head engine (very common for the time). Current weight by the way for a new GT? Right around 3800lbs.

Now imagine taking a few hundred lbs off that 83GT - aluminum engine, composite hood/decklids, modern construction and hydroforming techniques, and the newest electronic controls. The vehicle itself is fine - it was a solid enough car for transportation - but knocking even 200lbs (possible JUST by going all-aluminum on the engine which is common THESE days...) results in a perfectly drivable and serviceable vehicle almost 1000lbs lighter than the current model.

And the current V6 Mustangs touch 31mpg while making 100hp -more- than the old iron V8.

I don't think it's necessarily impossible to get some really big reductions in weight, but ultimately I think it's going to require a change in attitudes towards what cars are supposed to be for - transportation. Right now though, we're not always getting offered that. Curb weight on a 2012 Ford Focus? Supposedly a small 'economy' car. 3200lbs. Sheesh.

RE: Gotta say, in many respects
By zephyrprime on 10/25/2012 12:37:35 PM , Rating: 2
nobody would buy it.

RE: Gotta say, in many respects
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 1:53:36 PM , Rating: 2
The problem with stripped-out cars, besides safety regulations, is what I like to call the "Porsche 911 effect". After you get to the model with all the bells and whistles, Porsche starts charges extra to take things off . Compare the prices and weight of the GT2, GT3, and GT3 RS. Clarkson from Top Gear once joked, "...what's next, a million dollars for no Porsche at all?"

RE: Gotta say, in many respects
By zerorift on 10/25/2012 2:42:14 PM , Rating: 2
I would.

I've been pining for a car that is easier/cheaper to maintain (fewer computers / moving parts) for years, yet they keep making things more complex by adding garbage. Adding things like center console computer systems adds to the initial cost of the car, the cost of maintenance and the car's weight / mpg, all to give the consumer something they probably shouldn't be using on the road at all.

As an example, my boss' BMW has no less that 16 independent computers on board to essentially provide the same driving experience as a mid-ranged 80's sports car (luxury items notwithstanding). In the last year, that same BMW has been in the shop so often that my boss has actually logged more time driving rental cars than the one he originally purchased.

Lacking any sort of market research, it's foolish to make claims either way about what would hypothetically sell. I certainly will not be buying a BMW, or anything like it, any time soon....

RE: Gotta say, in many respects
By Spuke on 10/25/2012 3:18:53 PM , Rating: 2
You can just go by history. Others have already collected data over the years and written articles about it. Also, automakers occasionally will experiment by offering a car really no one wants just to see if anyone will buy it. See BMW's numerous attempts at selling a 318i here (or cars like it). Go to the automakers website and do the build and price thing. Look at the standard equipment. Cars don't come loaded from the factory, dealerships ORDER them that way because high content cars sell more (and at higher profits) than stripped cars. BUT, certain dealers WILL allow you to order a car to your specifications. I've done three cars like that. I had a friend that ONLY bought stripped cars and had to order them cause no one carried them on their lots.

By danjw1 on 10/25/2012 11:35:58 AM , Rating: 2
My understanding is that the Lincoln MKZ Hybrids sell almost as well as the conventionally powered ones. With those, they price the standard engine the same as the hybrid. This is a good way for automakers to get to meet CAFE standards. Share the additional cost of the hybrids with the owners of the conventionally powered vehicles. If all the automakers adopted this, I think we would see much wider adoption of hybrids.

By Spuke on 10/25/2012 11:48:46 AM , Rating: 2
Except that I don't want to pay for your hybrid!!!! Buy your own damn car! The reason the MKZ Hybrid costs nearly the same as the conventional model is because it's a LUXURY car and it's expensive to begin with.

By danjw1 on 10/25/2012 7:45:55 PM , Rating: 2
The people who buy large inefficient vehicles, already help pay for the more fuel efficient cars. Due to the CAFE standards the manufacturers need to move enough of the more efficient cars to meet the standards. This was happening well before hybrids were being sold to consumers. I personally see it as a vice tax, like on alcohol or cigarettes. You can call it what you want, but it has been going on since CAFE was first introduced.

More weight savings
By Schadenfroh on 10/25/2012 5:17:12 PM , Rating: 2
What is being done to address the next largest contributor to vehicle weight... a car full of the morbidly obese?

RE: More weight savings
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2012 11:56:28 PM , Rating: 2
yup, americans need to be downsized also.

big, bloated, and overloaded
By undummy on 10/25/2012 11:31:11 AM , Rating: 1

Cars have followed the American waistline over the years. As they became bigger and more bloated, they needed more power, and weight/power limits MPG.

Its about time that they go light.

Newer Altima, Camry, Avalon, Pathfinder, SkyActive, Impreza, Malibu.... have all been put on a diet losing 100-200lbs+. Its good to see almost EVERY automaker slimming down.

They should bring back 'selective' options. Can't stand all the useless geewhiz technocrap features that are standard and forced on the consumer.

Back in 1994, Ford knocked 400lbs off of a prototype Taurus with aluminum panels. Cost was $2k for 2mpg, so it never moved forward into production. I foresee that with 50+ CAFE MPG, we'll finally go slim again.

Anybody remember the fiberide (plastic) rims from the late 80's? Kevlar/aramid belted tires?
And, the current crazy of carbon fiber bolt on parts?

Lots of weak steel in a vehicle that can be replaced by thinner stronger steel, magnesium, aluminum, carbon fiber, plastics, ceramics, titanium, fiberglass....

Plenty of weight loss available in any vehicle when the automaker or consumer is forced to pay a little more. CAFE forces it when gas prices wouldn't.

RE: big, bloated, and overloaded
By Spuke on 10/25/2012 11:45:41 AM , Rating: 2
They should bring back 'selective' options. Can't stand all the useless geewhiz technocrap features that are standard and forced on the consumer.
I would agree here but the reason all that stuff is included is because of the increased cost of the car due to meeting safety and emission regulations. The automakers HAVE to include these features to sell at these higher price points. As what's been said here many times by many people, Americans aren't interested in $30k or $40k economy cars. And they aren't interested in technical details either (ie the reasons why cars are more expensive...CF, aluminum, hydroformed chassis etc). They see a price tag and EXPECT a certain level of features at that price tag. Can't say I'm any different either in this regard.

By KFZ on 10/25/2012 12:05:57 PM , Rating: 2
What goals? All I see are bureaucratic mandates imposing lofty and costly standards to satisfy government's massive ego, flexing their power over the private sector for reasons they promise are in the nation's best interests when it has absolutely no more business telling auto makers how to build their cars than it would giving solar energy companies a time table for how efficient their panels must be. This is a case of abhorrent over-regulation and runaway government.

The EPA needs a figurative hair cut. Absolutely none of these changes impacts the environment in a positive way. Expensive light materials may improve fuel economy, but are they "green"? Furthermore, the changes do nothing for commercial trucks, buses, boats, aircraft, trains, motorcycles or lawn mowers (the latter which are very polluting).

I can live with pollution controls stuck under the hood and behind a car's tail pipe. Fine. But get the hell out of the auto makers' way and let them make cars people want to drive.

With gas prices topping $4USD around me, you'd have to be a complete knob to not have fuel savings on the brain. Do you know what though? That's the consumer's business! Not the government's! The government is there to protect the individual against another, not force one to give the other something better than it already provides--at their own expense.

Seriously. Tossing features? Spare tire? Carbon fiber? This is supposed to make everything better and more affordable? Good bye, Mr. President, and take this slimy, scumbag EPA you sicked on the auto industry (which you also wrongly meddled with) along with you when you leave.

18lbs in car weight?
By conquistadorst on 10/29/2012 10:30:50 AM , Rating: 2
18lbs in car weight? How about human weight then? If everyone in the US jumped onto on a treadmill that isn't on one already, we'll save not only 18lbs in "car weight" but also additional benefits in our own population like reduced healthcare costs from a plethora of ailments, higher labor efficiency driven by more energy, increased happiness, more ambition, greater self-drive... and on, and on, and on...

The primary sufferers from such a "drastic" step would be television networks heh

By Beenthere on 10/25/2012 1:30:24 PM , Rating: 1
Car makers don't have a choice regarding weight as they can't meet the OUTRAGEOUS EPA CAFE mph requirements.

It's not like the auto makers aren't already using high stength steel, aluminum and plastic to save weight. Some are even using carbon fiber. The unfortunate reality is the cost to use more expensive materials, design and construction means consumers will be paying THOUSANDS MORE per car due to the UNREALISTIC EPA mandated mpg requirements.

Those who pull unrealistic CAFE numbers out of their ARSE should be held accountable for these ignorant demands .

By lightfoot on 10/25/12, Rating: -1
RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/25/12, Rating: -1
RE: Hilarious
By kattanna on 10/25/2012 11:46:34 AM , Rating: 2
the U.S. may have to resort to driver training

I wish we could get that now..irregardless of any new cars

RE: Hilarious
By Obujuwami on 10/25/2012 1:17:43 PM , Rating: 2
Irregardless isn't a word, you should have instead used the word regardless.

I do agree with the original poster that we need driving reform but think we should add better English classes to the list too.

RE: Hilarious
By superstition on 10/25/2012 6:40:13 PM , Rating: 2
It is a word, albeit a silly one.

It's silly because it's redundant semantically and morphologically incompatible with standard English.

However, if you speak a language that is more appreciative of double negatives, as some languages are, then it is satisfactory—provided the speaker is also familiar with regardless. Otherwise, it retains the implication of ignorance.

RE: Hilarious
By Florinator on 10/25/2012 12:00:24 PM , Rating: 4
A bigger heavier vehicle will always preform better in a real-world crash than a smaller, lighter vehicle.

That's BS. A bigger, heavier vehicle has higher inertia, which translates to longer stopping distance, higher risk of rollover (SUV's and pickup trucks lead the statistics of rollover deaths in America), slower response overall.

Have you guys ever seen a train wreck? Based on the bigger/heavier argument, you would think nobody should ever get hurt or die in a train wreck...

I will never understand why Americans think heavier means safer. Probably because they didn't like physics in school. In a real-life crash one never thinks "oh, I have the bigger, heavier vehicle, let me just hit the other car head-on because I have better chances", people always try to swerve and avoid the collision, which flips the bigger, heavier vehicle over, which is far more dangerous.

RE: Hilarious
By lightfoot on 10/25/12, Rating: 0
RE: Hilarious
By Solandri on 10/25/2012 12:17:19 PM , Rating: 2
That's BS. A bigger, heavier vehicle has higher inertia,

The greater inertia is why it's safer. In a collision between two vehicles, the resulting motion is the momentum of both vehicles combined. The heavier vehicle dominates the momentum balance.

In other words, when a heavy vehicle and a light vehicle hit each other head-on, the heavier vehicle slows down during the collision. The lighter vehicle bounces back, subjecting its occupants to higher accelerations.

Those government safety ratings you see? They're done with tests into fixed objects. In reality, you frequently collide with other cars. So a heavier vehicle which gets an B rating is actually much safer than a lighter vehicle which gets a B rating.
which translates to longer stopping distance

Nope. Friction at the tires is proportional to the coefficient of friction of the tires times the weight of the vehicle. So the greater inertia of a heavier vehicle while stopping is exactly canceled out by the increased friction it can generate with the road due to its greater mass.

If you increase the weight of a particular vehicle, its stopping distance increases because the brakes are only able to generate a fixed maximum amount of friction. But with a larger vehicle you simply install larger brakes.

higher risk of rollover (SUV's and pickup trucks lead the statistics of rollover deaths in America), slower response overall.

This one's correct. The risk of death due to rollover in an SUV almost exactly counteracts their increased safety due to greater mass.

However, we're not talking about converting sedans into SUVs. We're talking about converting sedans into lighter sedans.

Emergency avoidance response has more to do with rotational inertial and wheelbase (and tire width) than weight.

RE: Hilarious
By zephyrprime on 10/25/2012 12:35:43 PM , Rating: 1
That's bs about the tires. Yes, it's true according to simplified physics but in the real world, tires are not an ideal material at all. They behave non-linearly and changes to friction characteristics happen when they heat up while braking.

RE: Hilarious
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 12:40:50 PM , Rating: 2
But with a larger vehicle you simply install larger brakes.

Ever heard of a thing called brake fade? Sit there and tell me that you can consistently stop an SUV fitted with Brembos in less distance than a Porsche or a Lambo. More mass = longer stopping distances. Read a car comparison review for heaven's sake. It has nothing to do with tires.

RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 1:34:30 PM , Rating: 3
If brake fade is an issue for you in your normal commute, you might look in the mirror as to the problem.

RE: Hilarious
By 91TTZ on 10/25/2012 4:47:21 PM , Rating: 2
Ever heard of a thing called brake fade? Sit there and tell me that you can consistently stop an SUV fitted with Brembos in less distance than a Porsche or a Lambo

First of all, you're not going to encounter brake fade during a panic stop at highway speeds. Secondly,a large vehicle often has larger wheels than can hold larger rotors. Larger rotors are able to dissipate heat better than smaller rotors.

Car and Driver did a test about this. You can read it here:

"The amount of heat that brakes must dissipate is directly related to a vehicle’s weight, thus the brakes fitted to these heavyweight steeds face a tough mission. The FX50S was the lightest at 4643 pounds, the SRX came next at 4762 pounds, and the Cayenne S was the heavyweight, posting a brake-killing 5476 pounds.

The Porsche’s brakes, however, shrugged off the 2.75 tons with little effect. After 25 stops, we simply gave up because the pedal feel changed little (it grew just an inch), and the last stop, at 356 feet, was only 20 feet longer than the first. Clearly, the 90 seconds of cool-off time between runs was enough to keep the Cayenne’s brakes from overheating."

RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/25/2012 1:38:54 PM , Rating: 2
Crash tests done with other vehicles are also usually against vehicles in the same class. They don't really test a Civic against an F-150 for safety ratings.

How anyone buys a SMART is beyond me. Even against regular midsize cars it does terribly. Thank you but I enjoy having legs to walk with.

RE: Hilarious
By Reclaimer77 on 10/25/2012 4:01:54 PM , Rating: 1
Good to know three other morons failed in high school physics just like you did, to get that laughable 4 rating.

Have you guys ever seen a train wreck? Based on the bigger/heavier argument, you would think nobody should ever get hurt or die in a train wreck...

Great argument! Because you know, trains have three point safety harnesses, airbags out the wazoo, dual crumple zones, per-tentioners, etc etc!!! Uh no, trains have ZERO passenger safety measures.

I will never understand why Americans think heavier means safer. Probably because they didn't like physics in school.

You failed physics, big time I'm afraid. This fact has already been confirmed by safety testing organizations using loads of compiled data of accidents. All things equal in safety equipment, the larger heavier car is safer in a collision. Every time.

It's called physics, look it up. This is an educational and fun tool, tuned for someone of your...aptitude.

RE: Hilarious
By Mr Perfect on 10/25/2012 12:05:22 PM , Rating: 2
It depends on how they cut the weight. They're moving from cars made of lots of smaller parts welded and/or riveted together, to cars mad of fewer, larger parts, meaning strength will likely go up. As they mention in the article, joints are weak points in the structure.

RE: Hilarious
By Jeffk464 on 10/25/2012 11:44:46 PM , Rating: 2
You guys just don't get it, you maintain the same strength but reduce weight. If you reduced weight buy using less steal in a steal care then you reduce strength. Having all cars lighter makes the roads safer the bigger the vehicle the more energy to get rid of a crash. You ever see what happens when to trains collide?

RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/26/2012 8:19:37 AM , Rating: 3
Man you sure do steal a lot.

RE: Hilarious
By Jeffk464 on 10/26/2012 8:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah I saw the same analogy after I posted, but once you post its to late.

RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/26/2012 8:21:00 AM , Rating: 1
Well when you figure out a way to teleport all our goods around the country so we don't need semis and work trucks, you let us know.

Until then I'll take a car that has some chance of me surviving an accident with one.

RE: Hilarious
By Reclaimer77 on 10/26/2012 5:29:44 PM , Rating: 2
There is no way to make a cost effective vehicle that weighs dramatically less, while retaining the same crash characteristics as current autos. Maybe you haven't noticed, but there's still a world economy crisis going on. Cars made of Titanium and Carbon Fiber aren't really a reality right now, or ever.

But your argument is typical of the Leftist viewpoint on this. "Just force ALL cars to be tiny and light, and everyone will be safer". Uhhh, wrong thinking.

RE: Hilarious
By Jeffk464 on 10/26/2012 8:57:28 PM , Rating: 2
Aluminum is neither exotic or expensive.

RE: Hilarious
By FITCamaro on 10/29/2012 7:37:29 AM , Rating: 2
It's at least 4x more expensive than steel.

Aluminum - $2080/ton
US made Steel - $350-480/ton

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