By on April 27, 2010

In a study for the International Council on Clean Transportation [full study in PDF format here], Lotus Engineering sought to prove that major reductions in the mass and fuel consumption of mass-market vehicles would be possible by 2020 through the use of new materials and architectures. Starting with a Toyota Venza crossover, Lotus was able to show that a 38 percent reduction in vehicle mass (not counting the powertrain, 33 percent reduction including powertrain) will be possible with a mere three percent increase in component costs.  Based on DOE estimates, that means the Venza’s efficiency could be improved by 23 percent solely through changes in materials and design, with future powertrain efficiency gains adding cumulative benefits.

The study also considered a 2017 model-year concept, and found that a similar program of weight-saving could reduce vehicle mass by 21 percent (excluding powertrain) and actually reduce costs by two percent. Weight and cost reductions are summarized below.

The moral of the story? Reducing the weight of new vehicles remains an effective option for improving efficiency without huge cost increases. Lotus may have picked an easy target for weight reduction in the 5,000+ pound, five-passenger Venza, but it’s still an effective demonstration of Colin Chapman’s principles.

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34 Comments on “Lotus Adds Lightness… To The Toyota Venza?...”

  • avatar

    Colin Chapman. Graham was a member of the Monty Python team. Also light, but in another way. Both deceased, I’m afraid.


  • avatar
    Ken Magalnik

    This seems huge. Whats the catch?

    • 0 avatar

      I’d guess crashworthiness and NVH …

    • 0 avatar

      “The functional objectives were to maintain the 2009 Toyota Venza’s utility/performance including interior room, storage volume, seating, NVH (Noise, Vibration, Harshness), weight/horsepower ratio, and driving range as well as compliance to current and near term federal regulations.”


      You would guess, but that would mean you didn’t read the linked PDF.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ll be convinced when they actually build and crash test the thing.

    • 0 avatar


      Most of the weight reduction are by intelligently using materials like aluminum, magnesium, titanium, as well as polymers on key components. Crashworthiness should not be negatively impacted.

      However, while the BOM(bill of materials) may be comparatively low, the actual investment in making these changes would be considerable. The Venza makes business sense only because it shares so many things from a MFG perspective with the Camry/Highlander.

      The recommended weight savings strategies presented within the study would require a lot of bespoke investment on certain components, and would not make sense for low-cost vehicles with thinner margins. Higher-margin vehicles like the Audis, Lincoln Mkx that extensively use aluminum and magnesium-casting are already using many of the recommendations presented.

      Its however a very good study, but it may not make economic sense for all vehicles, a lot of the ideas should be applied selectively for weight savings.

  • avatar

    And it’s a 1000% better looking.

  • avatar

    I read somewhere that the mania for “platforms” has caused a lot of bloat. Not sure why. And maybe that applies more to smaller cars (say the GTI) rather than larger cars. Something to do with placing the engine and transmission, I would hazard.

    And the cost increase in materials for the study, but I am assuming the cost increases in tooling, design etc would be more substantial.

    • 0 avatar

      The retooling costs would be there for any major redesign anyway. So, when looking forward to 2020, I think it is fair to ignore those costs,a s they won’t be additional costs due solely to the reduced weight design of the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      From what I gather, chassis reinforcement is needed for each different configuration that platform must support. A recent example would be the new Sonata, which is I4 only to save the weight that adding the hardpoints for the V6 would have required.

      Then again, IANAAE (automotive engineer), talking out of my ass, etc.

  • avatar

    Hooray. Someone is working on making vehicles lighter. And for a reasonable cost. There are many benefits, more efficient use of whatever fuel (gas, diesel, electrons). better handling.
    I have wished for a long time that a new model would come out that weighed LESS than the predecessor.

  • avatar
    Da Coyote

    Love the look. Please shoot any MBA who comes near the vehicle. If you’ve not got the stomach, send ’em to BMW where ugly is still a process.

  • avatar

    See that? 23kg of electrical. That’s for all those people saying that luxury features, nannies and gizmos are what add weight to a modern car.

    Body, suspension, interior trim, powertrain.

    • 0 avatar

      In many cases there is no choice. Engine controls using vacuum? That was tried and couldn’t handle the job. Transmission control with hydraulics? Electronic controls are the only ones that can do the job.
      23 Kg is about 50 pounds. Not very much when a new model gains 400 pounds. I think much of it is old fashioned “structure” aka heavy steel.
      I am more concerned about the “miscellaneous” category which is heavier.

    • 0 avatar

      Come on – everyone knows that it’s the hundreds of pounds of airbags that cause weight bloat. Big engines and plush interiors are weightless, but it’s a well-known fact that safety equipment weighs up to nine pounds per kilogram!

    • 0 avatar

      We’ll be able to cut a significant portion of that electrical weight, IF the manufacturers ever migrate to the 48VDC standard.

      That they were supposed to migrate to years ago…

      While I realize 12VDC has been amortized since before the pyramids, it is really time to suck it up. We need smaller motors, smaller diameter wires, and all of the knock-on benefits that will be accrued from upping the voltage.

      It’s going to happen sooner or later. It’s a shame we keep wasting opportunities.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m sure the biggest chunk of that weight savings is in the battery. I’m not sure how they figure a light (probably Li Ion) battery will cost the same though. Maybe they also eliminated power seats to save more weight and cost. That’d be fine with me. I hate power seats- too slow and unreliable.

  • avatar

    So will this be sold as a SuperseVenza in honor of Lotus’ work?

  • avatar

    That thing looks more Acura than Toyota. I dig it. As for adding lightness, this is where automakers need to start looking for fuel economy increases.

  • avatar
    Amendment X


    We need to demand lighter vehicles. No major manufacturers want to talk about vehicle weight…

    • 0 avatar
      Rusted Source

      It’s interesting how Lotus continues to carve out a niche for themselves. Most other super car companies with the exception of Ferrari have all either gone the way of the dodo or have amalgamated with major car companies and incorporated chassis/drive-train sharing (although for Porsche you might be able to argue that the Cayenne is not platform sharing).

      With this kind of innovating work, they can continue to guarantee their existence.

  • avatar

    I looked at different portions of the document. Some of the ideas look very minimalistic, which I am not calling a bad thing. But definitely different from what you are used to. I think there is a lot to be gained in this area of weight reduction. Some of the minimal components look good in my opinion.

    If you look at the seats, they look like they are out of a race car.

  • avatar

    Almost 40% weight reduction for 3% higher price? I would gladly pay for that! 3% would add only about one thousand dollars to the price of a 20K car. But I think that it’s easier to sell high margin gadgets to the public than actually put quality materials and engineering into a car. Unfortunately lower weight doesn’t sell.

    Also, the weight reduction doesn’t even need to imply higher prices, but a turn back to the basics. There’s the recent example of the new Dacia Duster SUV here in Europe, that is 200kg less than a Nissan Qashqai and at the same time costs €7800 less than the Qashqai with the pretty much the same motor. Of course that means living with out sound deadening materials, sunroof, cruise control etc….

    Source (In French):

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Now, one could easily scare up another 150 pounds of weight loss if the driver and three passengers weren’t obese like many Americans.

  • avatar
    Robert Schwartz

    I thought the paper was systematic and thoughtful. Personally, I think the Venza and its competitors, are a fairly useless type of vehicle. Be that as it may, the same ideas can be applied to any vehicle. I would hope that the next generation of cars would take their hints from this thinking. I want to replace my 2002 Accord in a few years with something very similar in size but a lot lighter. Think first generation TSX.

  • avatar

    If Lotus can make a 33% mass reduction happen to a Venza, then wsn (that’s me) can make a 95% mass reduction to a Venza, at no extra cost.

    I mean, who would be so naive to believe in their shxt?

    I mean, Toyota can’t do it, Honda can’t do it, Ford can’t do it, VW can’t do it. Somehow, out of the blue, Lotus can make a mainstream crossover 33% lighter. They don’t even know how to build a crossover.

    They claim such things, not because they know more, but because they know too little.

    • 0 avatar

      WSN ummm….

      Lotus is an engineering company 1st, a car (CONTRACT) company 2nd.
      Just like Honda. Honda isnt a car company. Honda isnt a motorcycle company. They arent a SUV/ CUV / wagon company. Honda isnt a lawnmower or light plane company. Honda isnt a generator company either.

      Honda.. is a engine company, first and foremost, the rest is extra.

      As for the other companies.. they all employ hundreds if not thousands of engineers, and despite my vehement hatred for all things Domestic and Toyota.. they can all do it.– They just chose not to. Just like it took GM and Ford ntm Chrapsler YEARS to EVEN admit that it was possible to do a electric car or a hybrid, couldn’t even BEGIN to tell them that 10yrs ago. — Guess thats what BANKRUPTCY does to a company.

      A Crossover is another shitty marketing term for a jacked wagon.. on a unibody frame.

      Making one isnt difficult, its selling one to a overcrowded market and trying to differentiate yaself between the hordes of SLOBS.. thats where the money is.

      But they all have the same options, same weight issues, same things holding them back, aimed at the same people, progressive, 2-4kids, 3rd row seating… aiming at women, same B.S awd /4wd prowess, same design theory, same lack of a locking rear diff, same lack of snow tires, same TPMS system as required by the govt as of 2010, the same system… in the same kind of vehicle.. the only differences is.. if ya educated is…

      Who actually makes them.. and the baggage the operating / manufacturing company actually represents in your mind.. towards the vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      Read the study, they explain how they anticipate being able to do this in a decade.

      I doubt that any automobile company in the world has more experience working with lightweight aluminum and composite components as Lotus. Remember, Lotus built a fiberglass monocoque car, the original Elite, in the 1950s. They’ve done contracted work concerning aluminum architecture for Aston-Martin and Jaguar, and their own aluminum platforms are state of the art.

      Lotus is arguably the most advanced automotive engineering company in the world. By now they’ve done contract work for just about every major car company in the world, and a few of the smaller ones as well. Their programmable ECUs are used in engine development all over the world. In addition to their applied technology, that they use in house or for customers, Lotus also does some pretty basic research, like their Omnivore engine.

      As we make lighter and more efficient cars, Colin Chapman will prove to be more influential than Ferdinand Porsche or Enzo Ferrari.

    • 0 avatar

      @accazzdatch and @ronnie schrieber:

      Aw, c’mon. It’s way more fun to dismiss this all out of hand with snark than actually read the paper and consider Lotus’ history.


  • avatar

    Subaru beat everyone else to the punch with this, using smart manufacturing and new technologies to make the 05-09 Legacy a remarkably lightweight car (3200 with AWD, which is only a few hundred above the original Impreza) while still being the most refined, safest and best built car they’ve ever made.

    Then, in typical Subaru fashion, they totally undid it for the 2010 model and made it another bloated family sedan in a fatsuit.

    Bizarre engineering decisions. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.

  • avatar

    Just a point to clear up an error in the article. The Venza’s weight starts at 3760 lbs. Even with the V6 AWD, it’s just a tad over 4000 lbs. Heavy, yes, but not “5,000 +” lbs.

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