Some automakers looking to decrease car weights to meet fuel efficiency goals

Many automakers are seeking ways to reduce the weight of cars to help them run more efficiently, according to a recent article by the Detroit Free Press*. These changes are being implemented because of the tougher fuel economy standards that the industry is applying.

The new standards required by the federal government under the Corporate Average Fuel Economy regulations will call for automakers to reach an average of 34.1 mpg for all vehicles they manufacture. This would be an increase from the 27.5 mpg previously required for cars and 23.5 mpg required for light trucks.

The new standards create a challenge for automakers and may change some consumers’ decisions on car buying.

Engineering for lighter weight options

Michael Arbaugh, chief designer for Ford interiors, suggests that the elimination of CD players would help to decrease average car weights by about 5 pounds adding to fuel efficiency.

“That’s oceanfront property when you are talking about the center stack,” states Arbaugh.

Robert Boniface, director of design for Cadillac interiors, suggests use of a lighter carbon fiber for auto construction.

“As a design element, carbon fiber is a beautiful material,” Boniface told the paper. “It’s lightweight, it is structurally sound—we like it.”

Boniface also favors carbon fiber because of its cost efficiency. He feels the cost of carbon fiber will likely continue decreasing as well as it is demanded in greater quantities and more automakers develop partnerships for industry supply at high volumes.

Safety may be at risk

The new auto standards are not expected to change car prices dramatically, but many speculators worry that the new lighter weight options could add greater safety risks.

Many feel that the lighter weight and increased fuel efficiency of these new cars will increase traffic fatalities. Smaller lightweight vehicles are at greater risk of damages in an accident and the new standards may increase damages to lightweight cars.

Rebuttals to this include the fact that lighter weight vehicles can change direction quicker and avoid accidents, but the results of the new standards have yet to take effect on the roads.

*according to the Detroit Free Press on May 11, 2012
via Peter Montanez

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