Automakers Eye Weight Reductions to Meet Fuel Economy Goals
October 25, 2012 9:45 AM
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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
. 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
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.
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10/25/2012 12:05:57 PM
What goals? All I see are bureaucratic mandates imposing lofty and costly standards to satisfy government's massive ego, flexing their power over the private sector for reasons they promise are in the nation's best interests when it has absolutely no more business telling auto makers how to build their cars than it would giving solar energy companies a time table for how efficient their panels must be. This is a case of abhorrent over-regulation and runaway government.
The EPA needs a figurative hair cut. Absolutely none of these changes impacts the environment in a positive way. Expensive light materials may improve fuel economy, but are they "green"? Furthermore, the changes do nothing for commercial trucks, buses, boats, aircraft, trains, motorcycles or lawn mowers (the latter which are very polluting).
I can live with pollution controls stuck under the hood and behind a car's tail pipe. Fine. But get the hell out of the auto makers' way and let them make cars people want to drive.
With gas prices topping $4USD around me, you'd have to be a complete knob to not have fuel savings on the brain. Do you know what though? That's the consumer's business! Not the government's! The government is there to protect the individual against another, not force one to give the other something better than it already provides--at their own expense.
Seriously. Tossing features? Spare tire? Carbon fiber? This is supposed to make everything better and more affordable? Good bye, Mr. President, and take this slimy, scumbag EPA you sicked on the auto industry (which you also wrongly meddled with) along with you when you leave.
"We shipped it on Saturday. Then on Sunday, we rested." -- Steve Jobs on the iPad launch
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