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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RE: Gotta say, in many respects
10/25/2012 2:42:14 PM
I've been pining for a car that is easier/cheaper to maintain (fewer computers / moving parts) for years, yet they keep making things more complex by adding garbage. Adding things like center console computer systems adds to the initial cost of the car, the cost of maintenance and the car's weight / mpg, all to give the consumer something they probably shouldn't be using on the road at all.
As an example, my boss' BMW has no less that 16 independent computers on board to essentially provide the same driving experience as a mid-ranged 80's sports car (luxury items notwithstanding). In the last year, that same BMW has been in the shop so often that my boss has actually logged more time driving rental cars than the one he originally purchased.
Lacking any sort of market research, it's foolish to make claims either way about what would hypothetically sell. I certainly will not be buying a BMW, or anything like it, any time soon....
RE: Gotta say, in many respects
10/25/2012 3:18:53 PM
You can just go by history. Others have already collected data over the years and written articles about it. Also, automakers occasionally will experiment by offering a car really no one wants just to see if anyone will buy it. See BMW's numerous attempts at selling a 318i here (or cars like it). Go to the automakers website and do the build and price thing. Look at the standard equipment. Cars don't come loaded from the factory, dealerships ORDER them that way because high content cars sell more (and at higher profits) than stripped cars. BUT, certain dealers WILL allow you to order a car to your specifications. I've done three cars like that. I had a friend that ONLY bought stripped cars and had to order them cause no one carried them on their lots.
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