Print 96 comment(s) - last by Dan Banana.. on Oct 29 at 10:07 PM

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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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.

"Paying an extra $500 for a computer in this environment -- same piece of hardware -- paying $500 more to get a logo on it? I think that's a more challenging proposition for the average person than it used to be." -- Steve Ballmer

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