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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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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.

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