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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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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.

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