The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) is launching a campaign to help cars lose weight in order to gain efficiency and performance.
By bringing together members of the aluminum and plastics/composites industries, CAR hopes that automakers will reap the benefits of new lightweight materials to meet stricter fuel economy standards without sacrificing acceleration or handling.
Obviously fans of descriptive acronyms, the folks at CAR have named the group Coalition of Automotive Lightweighting Materials, or CALM. Among its members, CALM will count over 200 automotive suppliers who will collaborate on weight-saving technologies in what they call “precompetitive” efforts. That way, the greatest number of automakers will be able to take advantage of lighter components.
“One of the first tasks for CALM will be to meet with engineering groups at the automakers to understand their mass reduction strategies and challenges so the supplier industries can develop and apply their technology solutions with each auto company,” said CAR president and CALM director Jay Baron.
Automakers can add hybrid powertrains, downsize engines and change up gearing ratios, but reducing a vehicle’s overall weight is still one of the most efficient ways of improving gas mileage. It’s an argument often made by fans of the late Geo Metro and Honda CRX HF — both of which achieved hybrid-worthy fuel economy at the expense of safety features, creature comforts and wheels larger than a lawn tractor’s.
While overall fuel economy has increased dramatically in the past few decades, so has the weight of passenger vehicles. MIT economist Christopher Knittel recently found that the average vehicle’s curb weight increased 26 percent between 1980 and 2006. If today’s powertrains were fitted to cars as light as the Chevettes and Civics of yore, the average fuel economy of cars sold in the US would be as high as 37 mpg in 2012.
Like most Americans this time of year, car manufacturers have started looking at the numbers on their scales and are vowing to do something about it. GM, for its part, has talked about using carbon fiber across their vehicle fleet, even on entry-level models.
The benefits won’t just be all about fuel economy. Lighter cars can be more nimble on the road, offering performance and handling benefits. For that reason, we suggest CAR change the coalition’s name to something like the Colin Chapman Center for Automotive Weight Loss, after the Lotus founder who famously said, “To go faster, just add lightness.”
Via Wired Autopia: http://www.wired.com/autopia/