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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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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.


"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007














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