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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.

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