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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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RE: no way around hybrid
By Florinator on 10/25/2012 12:05:56 PM , Rating: 2
I also think it's time for some innovation in the world of internal combustion engines. After all, not much has changed in 150 years. What's the typical efficiency of a gasoline-powered engine? 25-30%? Come on, that's like technological stone-age...

RE: no way around hybrid
By KFZ on 10/25/2012 12:08:25 PM , Rating: 2
Computer motherboards are still widely using the ancient ATX and x86 standards. Why doesn't the government step in and demand innovation?

Maybe because it's none of their goddamn business?

RE: no way around hybrid
By Florinator on 10/25/2012 12:12:20 PM , Rating: 2
I partly agree with your conclusion, but in the case of engines, there are side-effects. Better gas mileage translates into less pollutants, which benefits all of us, that's why the government make it their business... But I don't mean to fire up the ideological war...

RE: no way around hybrid
By freedom4556 on 10/25/2012 12:58:42 PM , Rating: 2
Better gas mileage translates into less pollutants, which benefits all of us

But getting better mileage beyond a certain point requires (much) more expensive cars, and more expensive cars means less new car sales, and less new car sales means more old, inefficient cars on the road. The industry knows that green-eco BS sells cars, don't you think they'd do everything that makes economic sense? This is the problem with people who only have their gen-ed econ class to go on. Government interference is only going to cause economic damage.

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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