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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: 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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