By on December 28, 2016

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Car manufacturers have achieved significant fuel economy gains in recent years, but the improvements largely come down to upgraded drivetrain efficiency. Vehicles still weigh substantially more today than they did in the early 1980s, when the previous decade’s demand for fuel economy improvements forced the issue.

Since then, automobiles have gradually packed on the pounds — negatively offsetting the technology encouraging fuel frugality. Modern safety concerns, improved build quality, sound dampening, and consumer demand for bigness have all helped to keep the typical family transport oinking around a two-ton curb weight.

If companies could effectively slim down those autos, without sacrificing structural rigidity, safety, or consumer comfort, the efficiency gains would become all the more significant. However, with few consumers ready to dive back into noisy, frail hatchbacks, weight savings will likely need to be done on the molecular level. In a new study, the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) in Ann Arbor investigated the materials going into 44 separate 2015 model year cars and asked automakers what would they use if they suddenly needed to reduce weight from essential items. 

Accomplished with the support of nine automakers, the study investigates individual parts on various production vehicles. While the automakers provided extensive information on the components and their assembly, CAR was forbidden from disclosing the specific models used for the study. However, CAR claims the chosen vehicles are common on public roads and comprise over half of the U.S.’s car sales volume.

“If you really have to get lighter weight vehicles, there is a huge shift to composites, and especially carbon fiber,” Jay Baron, CEO of the center’s research group, told Automotive News. “Even in pillars and crossbeams and rails.”

Baron said the message he received from automakers was, “We cannot get to a 15 percent lighter weight car without getting very aggressive with composites.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s safety regulations and the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard are a big part of why cars haven’t gotten much lighter in recent years, but absolutely need to. With average fuel economy guidelines destined to increase to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, automakers would certainly benefit from weight reduction.

However, the most common weight-saving measures have come from lightening the engine itself through the use of temperature-resistant plastics (and by shrinking the motor’s overall size).

The study indicates that most automakers turn to steel and aluminum when asked to reduce a vehicle’s weight by 5 percent. Ford has already made use of an entirely aluminum body for the current F-150 and further cut weight by introducing hardened plastics elsewhere, but aluminum’s lack of durability limits its advantages and ease of enactment.

Magnesium could also use the existing steel-based fabrication infrastructure but, with so much of the production based in China, the potential for a supply disruption makes high-volume use unfeasible. It also carries a higher than average cost.

Carbon fiber and similar composites offer the greatest benefit in weight reduction, but carmakers agreed that it is also the most difficult to incorporate into large-scale production. Embracing composites as a core building material would require the abandonment of existing manufacturing methods while increasing the accepted variation in part-to-part fabrications. There is also an incredibly high material and fabrication cost.

Companies agreed that the largest barrier to lightweighting was the initial capital investment toward changing manufacturing norms. With that in mind, the trend over the next ten years should progress with the introduction of lighter materials in key structural areas like the doors, hood, front pillars, and fenders. Still, Baron told AN, the materials used will likely remain steel-based for the time being.

“They say, ‘We worked hard to get standardized processes, and now that we have them you want us to make a composite door?’ It’s not standard, so you’re disrupting the process.”

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100 Comments on “Why Are Vehicles Still so Heavy? Blame Manufacturing Infrastructure...”


  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    I eagerly await my carbon fiber electric AWD sedan.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Cars are heavier because they are bigger. When you compare cars of similar size I think they are lighter. For example my 2009 Civic sedan is just as roomy inside as my 1990-1993 Accords were, but it weighs ~200-300lbs less depending on trim. Same story with a 3 series vs an old 5 series.

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    I just bought a 2010 Yaris hatchback, only weighs 100 lbs less than the 98 Corolla it replaces, yet it has a smaller motor, 2 less doors and it’s 2 feet shorter. Plus no power anything.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Well duh to this whole article. We know the problem and we know the solution. The sticky part is nobody can afford a vehicle built from composites or ultra light metal alloys. I don’t see this changing anytime soon. Now if someone can figure how to do injected modeled carbon cheaply then you’ve got a shot. Something tells me the VOC problems with resins will also be a limiting factor. Instead of making a car from metal dug up from the ground you are talking about making a car in a test tube with a bunch of lab chemicals. I’m guessing that solution doesn’t scale very well.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “Well duh to this whole article.”

      Nay. I find it a hugely interesting subject and I thank Matt for broaching it.

      From what I saw of the J-boys’ engineering papers in the late ’90s lightweighting was the new Holy Grail. I can’t imagine they’ve slacked-off since.

      I’d look to them for the state of the possible and feasible.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1 JMII. You wrote my thoughts.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The solution is simple. Buy a lower model.

      The Corolla/Civic class has replaced the Camry/Accord class. The 3 series class has replaced the 5 series class. Etc. You line up all the specs with cars of today vs cars of the next class up ~15 years ago, everything lines up completely. No need for exotic materials, just different consumer choices.

  • avatar
    rjanuary

    Consumers and the government are also to blame.
    Where is the customer to blame? Their demand for flashy doodads, infotainment systems, and sound deadening.
    Where is the government to blame? Increasingly stringent crash safety regulations.

    Auto makers don’t engineer in a vacuum, they engineer to demands.

  • avatar
    akatsuki

    With the incoming Trump administration – I fully expect that CAFE requirement to disappear.

    Composites are also notoriously hard to recycle/reuse (especially CF).

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      I agree, and the reason is because the Obama Administration simply made the standards completely unreasonable. So instead of working within the system, I could see the whole thing being thrown away. Good riddance.

      54.5 mpg is absurd in a few short years, if everyone drove a Prius I’m not sure you could hit that number.

      It was more a back door for carbon credit (cap and trade) scheme than a real world number for automakers to actually reach.

      • 0 avatar
        akatsuki

        I suspect it won’t matter. Electrical cars are here to stay, are amazing, and have ridiculously low TCO/maintenance costs.

        Self-driving cars, car sharing, etc. The car will be on its way out for the most part anyway. Regardless of what the wingnuts on this site think.

        Agree that cap and trade would be better as a system over all. But we won’t get that either. Now is the time to implement something, and the incoming administration is just going to push those costs to the future, letting them exponentially rise.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          “Electrical cars are here to stay, are amazing, and have ridiculously low TCO/maintenance costs.”

          Source?

          • 0 avatar
            akatsuki

            I used to have a depreciation model fully built out for a Tesla P90D – I’ll dig it out. Even with cheaper gas it worked out pretty well for the P90D owner – TCO over 5 years at 15,000 miles was lower than a new Hyundai Genesis sedan or Honda Odyssey minivan.

            The two drivers of cost ended up being gas price and depreciation (not surprisingly), and I took pretty aggressive negative assumptions on the Tesla – the depreciation has less severe than I modeled.

            This was also assuming you bought the full maintenance warranties on each.

            I’ll see if I can dig it out of my backup – in the end we bought a different car because we were renting and couldn’t get permission to install the charger.

      • 0 avatar
        yamahog

        Nah man. CAFE milage is quite a bit different from the milage you see on the window sticker and the CAFE standard is driven by vehicle footprint / the area between the 4 wheel hubs.

        The first gen Prius exceeded the CAFE 2025 standards, and the current Avalon Hybird is CAFE 2025 complaint. The C-max and fusion hybrid are CAFE 2025 compliant too; and the 4×2 F150 with the 2.7 V6 ecoboost is darn near CAFE 2025 compliant.

        I don’t know how blessed you are, but I’d be lucky to own any one of those cars (save the first gen Prius but I’m not above driving a free one). They’re good cars that happen to be CAFE 2025 complaint. Now, I’m no fan of the scheme but we have the technology to make good cars (by any reasonable estimation) that are CAFE compliant.

        But on the same vein, CAFE is probably the reason you can’t get a new V8 car with a price in the $20-thousand region.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          Exactly. Ford’s turbo F-150s and sedan/hatch hybrids have good power and MPG and low TCO. If that’s what CAFE 2025 compliance looks like, bring it on.

          Back in the 70s, US automakers responded to environmental regulations by building half-assed, under-engineered wheeze-mobiles, perhaps in hopes that consumers would be so miserable they’d push to roll back the regs. Instead, consumers switched to Corollas and Accords and Rabbits, and Detroit permanently lost market share. So complete was Detroit’s f-up that If not for “voluntary” Japanese import quotas in the 1980s, we likely wouldn’t even have domestic carmakers today.

          One likes to think they will not make that mistake again.

    • 0 avatar
      Ol Shel

      What you’re going to get is uneducated Trump supporters buying V-8 suvs because they think it upsets people who care about the planet. We’ve seen this story before, and it doesn’t work out well for middle-class and poor people.

      There’s nothing patriotic about buying dumb, inefficient vehicles.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        it eventually worked, once they got 200k miles on em.

      • 0 avatar
        JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

        There is something patriotic about working hard and buying whatever chrome-laden, 4 wheel drive, American behemoth one wants. Ever stop to consider that maybe some people enjoy large vehicles, and since you don’t pay their payments or fuel costs, maybe you should stop whining about it and just enjoy your Prius C?

      • 0 avatar
        mtmmo

        I see Ol Shel is enjoying his sour grapes. Hopefully he’s in a safe space.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        “uneducated Trump supporters buying V-8 suvs because they think it upsets people who care about the planet”

        Do you really think that they think about your coreligionists at all? Your knowledge of them is purely reportorial; mine is personal and individual.

        They’re not making major spending decisions based upon their expectations of how pencil-necked urban weenies will react. They buy what they buy to maximize their own comfort, safety and functionality within their own community and for their own lifestyles.

        Can you believe me on this?

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          F450’s for everyone!

          • 0 avatar
            JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

            Lol, of course my contention isn’t that everyone *should* have them, just that everyone who can afford one *should* have the option if they choose to have it, and should not be judged in such a hateful manner.

        • 0 avatar
          sarcheer

          Rollin’ Coal folks typically say otherwise

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            “Rollin’ Coal folks typically say otherwise”

            We don’t hunt or golf with those oafs and we’re currently negotiating with Illinoiss to trade them for some more Hmong.

            Hmong people are great; just don’t question the older ones’ food prep too closely.

        • 0 avatar
          dal20402

          They sure do talk a big game about how “this’ll piss off the libs!” Whether they mean it or not may vary. My father-in-law, the strongest Trump supporter in my orbit, really doesn’t… but others certainly do.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          “They’re not making major spending decisions based upon their expectations of how pencil-necked urban weenies will react.”

          I can moatly believe you on this, because GM’s Hummer brand is defunct.

          The “up yours, hippie” market does exist. Fortunately, it’s a very small segment.

          One guy who’s in this segment is the perpetual token Republican mayoral candidate in my town. My town is pretty liberal, and he’s the annoying kind of contrarians (I appreciate insightful contrarians). He bought a bright red Hummer H3 after losing the last mayoral election with less than 20% of the vote, just because he wants to annoy his neighbors. Annoying his neighbors is how he plans to get his neighbors to vote for him??? There’s a reason he’s a token candidate.

          But that’s just one guy in a “metro area” of around 300k people (depending on whether the university is in session). There are probably more people who want to annoy the liberals that make up the majority in our town as badly as he does, but the people who are willing to buy a Hummer for the purpose probably couldn’t fill a booth at Panera.

          P.S. There are plenty of people who drive vehicles I wouldn’t own, because they like them. This perpetual mayoral candidate does not come across as being one of them.

        • 0 avatar
          HotPotato

          “They buy what they buy to maximize their own comfort, safety and functionality within their own community and for their own lifestyles.”

          Indeed most do! Sort of. If inches per dollar, pounds per horsepower, and comfort per seat were the only issues, inland families would drive minivans or CUVs, not Tahoes.

          Other things play into it, of course. Maybe they go for the classic BOF SUV because they have stuff to tow, or aspire to. Or maybe because a full size American BOF SUV’s high initial cost and long life makes it a status symbol of both wealth and prudence.

          But let’s face it, no small part of it is also tribal: not wanting to be mistaken for “pencil-necked urban weenies.”

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            One hopes you are according adequate importance to the fact that the f*ckers run forever and heat up real quick in winter and you can throw all kinda sh*t into ’em and they go real good in snow and mud and stuff.

        • 0 avatar
          carguy67

          “They’re not making major spending decisions based upon their expectations of how pencil-necked urban weenies will react.”

          Yeah. That’s what rolling coal is for ;)

  • avatar
    JustPassinThru

    Light cars have been ruled out of production by regulations.

    Air bags, door beams, various structural demands…plus the thousands of miles of copper wiring, the various processors and sensors…to mention only a few…these all WEIGH.

    I had as a hooptie a 1995 Geo Metro three-pot. Thing was less than 1500 pounds, and had more-than adequate real-world performance. AND 50 miles a gallon.

    There is a reason it’s no longer being sold, and that reason is not only low demand. It was OUTLAWED by new standards. Fuel tank location, door construction and lack of seat and side-curtain blow-up pillows, made it unsaleable.

    Now the government may ORDER cars with all these safety standards to also get mileage that requires a 1600-lb curb weight, but there IS no way to make such a vehicle and make it at a price the average schmoe can buy it at, and wants to.

    Until then…one or the other of these wishes, will be un-met.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      That Geo Metro’s 0-60 time is just about double what the average top 10 seller is today. In no way would its performance be adequate today. It would get mauled on any NYC onramp.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        That’s okay. I haven’t been on an NYC onramp since 1988, and have no plans to do so in the future.

        I used that thing in Buffalo, Cleveland and Indianapolis, over the space of five years. Drove it between those cities…made regular back-and-forth between Indy and Cleveland.

        It was not a great car for that but it was entirely adequate. Until the EGR valve coked up on one Indy-Cleveland run and caused the exhaust valves (all three) to burn and basically kill the engine. All in the space of ten hours of wide-open throttle running.

        Acceleration was not a problem. I don’t have to be the fastest one off the light…I’m comfortable with the size of my junk. Unlike many others, who have to have the fastest, loudest, smelliest or blackest-coal-rolling vehicle…

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “We cannot get to a 15 percent lighter weight car without getting very aggressive with composites.”

    This does not seem like much of a gain for a significant increase in cost and complexity.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      But there are other ways. Because of the marketing pressure of “bigger is always better” is cast into the American psyche from the earliest years, carmakers always boost size – even if just incrementally – for every model changeover. That is part of the reason why we are here today with bloated vehicles. If all carmakers reduced the size of each model by 6 or 7 percent, that would be a giant step in the right direction. With proper design, that small a change in exterior dimension would hardly be noticeable on the inside. With that weight reduction, you can have a smaller displacement engine without any sacrifice in power. Now, let’s look at the power levels of today’s cars – are 6.5 second Camrys really necessary? I sure don’t mind the power but I know plenty of people that would be happy with a 0 to 60 of nine seconds if it meant an additional couple of MPGs. These few steps would be more than a great start at better MPGs. Will they get you to 54.5? No but it sure would be a far cheaper start than pushing expensive composites. Then again, as was already pointed out, T-rump will likely undo the standard anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        Like I’ve been saying, there’s no need for them to reduce anything. Consumers can just go a size down. A current Civic is about as roomy as a 10 year old Accord, while weighing ~300-400lb less. B&B just needs to shift its perspective and stop looking within the boundaries of model lines.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          “B&B just needs to shift its perspective”

          This!

          Let’s shift all our perspectives to accept euthanizing 3/4s of the global pop and there will be no petroleum-based need for lightweighting!

  • avatar
    markogts

    “aluminum lack of durability”

    Say again, please… Body panels are the only thing that holds on a Land Rover.

  • avatar
    Fred

    Safety, sound deadening and accessories add a few hundred pounds to every car. Then some one like Ford starts using aluminium and they are chastised for it.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    Something has to give when you have all sorts of crash standards combined with unrealistic CAFE standards.

    Personally, I’ll take crash safety over fuel economy.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    This so called analysis tells us nothing which wasn’t known twenty or more years ago. If you want to add lightness without detracting from function or safety, add money. Ford has spent massive amounts of money converting the F150 to lighter weight aluminum.

    Infrastructure costs are but one small part of the problem. Materials costs are the bigger issue.

    Price out a carbon fiber based bicycle some day :).

    • 0 avatar
      Not_a_luddite

      The cost of a carbon fiber bike has come down significantly in the last 5 years… You can buy a entry level Trek Emonda S for about $1500. There are literally dozens of aluminum bikes with similar component specs from high volume manufacturers that sell at a similar price point, even Trek sells aluminum bikes for more than that.

      BMW will have a significant carbon fiber structure in the 3 series within the next 5 years, and the technology will trickle into other manufacturers slowly. My assumption would be bonded aluminum and carbon vehicle structures will start to become common place within the decade. Chevrolet already did it with the Corvette, you don’t go through the hassle of developing that kind of technology without hopes of pushing it into lower platforms.
      Realistically, manufacturers will have to turn to composites, the ever evolving impact requirements will eventually make steel structures too heavy to be practical, at some point carbon and aluminum will be the only options. Plus, the cost of materials has steadily decreased, and the technology for manufacturing has been heavily developed over the last 30 years. One of the largest road blocks for composites is the time it takes to layup and cure large structures. But with injected carbon slurries, thermoplastics, carbon reinforced plastics, etc. the time a part spends in the mold and oven will decrease. It’s important to note, almost all of these technologies and techniques already exist, refinement and requirements will drive them into the market. You already fly across the nation in carbon aircraft, sail on carbon boats, ride carbon bicycles, hunt with carbon bows, fish with carbon poles, swing carbon golf clubs, wear carbon helmets. Your Mustang has carbon wheels, your i3 is mostly carbon, your 7 series has a lot of carbon in it, the 4C is carbon, the Corvette uses it extensively.
      I guess my point is, auto manufacturers aren’t going to let this technology slip by them.

  • avatar
    rcx141

    Citroens have been built out of bent wire and plastic for nearly 25 years now. That must have saved a lot of weight.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    People care more about themselves and their own loved ones than they care about anything or anyone else. Customers and regulations are not the only problem though, as carmakers and PR people love to tell you how much more safer and how many times less polluting their car is than their competitions cars, and their own previous models. That said, cars today aren’t extremely heavy compared to similarly sized cars with similar equipment in the ‘old days’.
    I think both engines and interior parts have shed weight the last 30 years, so the large factor here is the more rigid basic structures, build as much for comfort and handling at higher speeds as they are for personal safety. And built to handle more power in general.
    Most 30 year old cars would twist and creak with the power of some modern inline 4s, not to mention the torque steer and roadnoise at 70mph+. With 300hp v6s it would be even worse.
    The only way we could get lighter cars in the future is to either stop demanding everything we think is necessary in a new car today (hahahaha) or accept that modern cars get even more similar as manufacturers standardize things even more, even if that means more platform sharing between brands and even fewer engines to choose from. By now the differences between brands are almost all down to designs and interiors anyway, so it would technically be possible to have around 5 worldwide standard platforms and possiby less than 10 standard IC engines with a bunch different tunes. (for common passenger cars at least)
    Transmission selections are almost at that level anyway. In car entertainment even worse, and proper seats are build only by Volvo and Recaro.

  • avatar
    skor

    A six cylinder Mustang from 1965 weighed 2,500 pounds. A six cylinder Mustang from 2016 weighs 3,500 pounds. Progress.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      Tell the whole story guy. Your 1965 200 cid 6 that was the standard motor brought you all of 120 hp. The 2016 3.7 Mustang has 300. If you wanted a 300 hp Mustang in 1965, well you’d have to get a top of the line K code (271 hp) and throw some speed shop love at it. If you didn’t mind living with a race car you could order up a GT350 that would get you 306 hp. Of course ticking the GT350 box nowadays gets you a Livable Mustang with 526 hp. I love the old cars too man, but we really do live in the golden era.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        “A six cylinder Mustang from 1965 weighed 2,500 pounds…”

        My son traded his early 2000’s Toyota Echo for a new 4 door Toyota iA. The iA is essentially the successor to the Echo. The Echo weighed 2055 lbs stripped. The iA added 7 inches in length, 2 inches in width, A/C, entertainment system, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, automatic braking, billy-the-big-mouth-bass front end, and those dreaded safety systems. The weight penalty? 330 lbs. All of those additions for just 330 lousy lbs. Not a bad trade-off (grill excepted) if you ask me.

        Echo: https://goo.gl/8hO9Ls
        iA: https://goo.gl/PlKgOX

    • 0 avatar
      Greg Locock

      “A six cylinder Mustang from 1965 weighed 2,500 pounds. A six cylinder Mustang from 2016 weighs 3,500 pounds. Progress.”

      Now list the standard equipment in the 2500 lb mustang vs the 3500lb one. Then compare their crashworthiness, emissions, braking distance, durability, fuel consumption and, duh, performance.

      Just as an example, how much do you think 12 speakers, the reinforcements in the structure for them and their wiring weigh? How about A/C? 8 airbags and their structure? big wheels with disc brakes to fit?

      I was really hoping somebody would throw up that sort of remark, Best and Brightest indeed.

      It’s pretty simple, reducing weight has been of very little interest to the people who buy new cars. There’s even physics behind it. Suppose we had two identical cars, but one was 25% lighter. We smash them together. The guys in the light car experience 25% greater Face Smashing accelerations.

      Inevitably the lighter car will cost more, yet it is less safe for its occupants. To make it as safe, we need to spend even more money.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        “Suppose we had two identical cars, but one was 25% lighter. We smash them together. The guys in the light car experience 25% greater Face Smashing accelerations.”

        Not necessarily.

        It all depends on how the structure is designed to absorb/dissipate energy and reduce the forces transferred to the human body.

        Example: The aluminum F150 is lighter and safer than its predecessor.

        It can be argued that a heavier object contains more kinetic energy at speed than a lighter one of the same size at the same velocity.

        • 0 avatar
          Greg Locock

          I said identical but for mass.

          Newton: Every force has an equal and opposite reaction.

          Therefore the force the light car exerts on the heavy car is identical.

          Newton: F=ma

          The acceleration in each car is inversely proportional to its mass.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            Well, continually trying one-upmanship with mass in the interest of “safety” results in yesterday’s heavyweight hero being outclassed by tomorrows tub of lard. Instead of mindless mass, intelligent design and an eye toward reducing the number of crashes and matching ride heights will go a long way to reducing fatalities.

          • 0 avatar
            OldManPants

            Yabbut those rational thoughts flee mighty fast when you’re the littlest car in the Valley of the Brodozers.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “reducing the number of crashes and matching ride heights will go a long way to reducing fatalities.”

            A good start – also, people are buying SUV’s in droves to maintain height equity with the general trend – suddenly now you need rollover-rated roofs, 18″x40 series rubber, extra HP to outrun semi rigs entering highways where the speed limits have *increased* in many places, and don’t forget AWD – heck, even in Texas, it sells.

            Gas is relatively cheap, so people ignore the penalties of flattening fuel mileage, and all the time, the oil companies are equating gasoline with “freedom” and the flag, so consuming more oil is actually considered “patriotic”. The Gov’t is trying to buck this trend, and is cited as evil and stupid for the attempt – as if there’s a left brain/right brain battle in the same organism… odd.

            Soon, the world will temporarily turn upside-down, but auto manufacturers (and energy suppliers, many other industries) will continue research into efficiency, because efficiency makes sense, and when the world comes to its senses, it will demand it.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        “Just as an example, how much do you think 12 speakers, the reinforcements in the structure for them and their wiring weigh?”

        I don’t disagree with your overall point, but you would be surprised at how little modern factory car speakers weigh. Furthermore, the world is moving toward class-D amplification which radically reduces weight. Having said that, the trend is toward more crappy speakers (12 speaker sound!) than fewer good ones, so it all washes in the end.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      take a 1965 Mustang and run it head-on into a 2017 Mustang at 35 mph. the occupants of the 2017 will open the doors and get out, the occupants of the 1965 will need to be sponged off of the seats.

      • 0 avatar
        raph

        Indeed JimZ! Almost been there done that. Had a 2015 GT and kid in a 2007 Civic hit me head on.

        Long story short they had to peel the Civic from around the driver after cutting it up while my passenger and I just opened the doors and exited the wrecked car. Our injuries were minor consisting of a few dislocated ribs and spine for me, some bruises for my passenger. The kid in the Civic, I don’t know the extent of his injuries but he was in shock and had to be carted off in an ambulance and this was a wreck going about 35 mph.

        • 0 avatar
          rocketrodeo

          And the ’07 Civic with the Ace body architecture was infinitely more crashworthy than an early unibody Mustang with lap belts. I had one, with a big block motor and sketchy brakes. I’m glad to have survived it and feel much safer these days on a touring motorcycle.

      • 0 avatar
        tresmonos

        replying with logic to Skor usually results in zero response. You have to really chide him/her to bring it out of it’s shell.

        • 0 avatar
          OldManPants

          “him/her”

          I keep wondering that.

          Sometimes the avatar looks like a dame with Andy Rooney eyebrows and a Gretta Garbo headwrap.

        • 0 avatar
          skor

          Skor can’t sit on his posts all day like some of you retirees and gentlemen of leisure can. I mostly post at night, the rest of the time I’m dead to the world.

          Oh, don’t recognize the avatar? You can find a larger version here: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~tdszyman/nosferatu/nosferatu-letter3.jpg

          • 0 avatar
            tresmonos

            eh, you post way more than I do and it’s usually non-value added tripe. So what does that make you?

            I won’t even discriminate against the leisure enabled or retirees.

  • avatar
    LTDwedge

    3 words to Google ; Lamborghini, forged, composites.
    A suitably RIGID frame (think Lotus) made of Al, would be a very good foundation for a vehicle. IMHO

  • avatar
    gasser

    Light weight, cost, safety.
    Pick any two.

  • avatar
    whitworth

    I don’t want my car made with exotic composites and adhesives to shave to shave a few pounds all to save a $5 dollars a month on my gas bill.

    It will easily be overwhelmed with the increased purchase price and insurance premiums as these cars will have to be totaled if they get into minor fender benders. And then there’s the exotic drive trains like 9 speed transmissions, supercharged and turbocharged 4 bangers that get 0.8 better mpgs. There again, things become incredibly complex for meager gains all to satisfy bureaucratic regulations.

    The government regulations need to take a breather for the sake of consumers.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “I don’t want my car made with exotic composites and adhesives..”

      And no glutens!

    • 0 avatar
      skor

      “I don’t want my car made with exotic composites…”

      I can’t imagine why?

      http://www.bustedcarbon.com/

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      “The government regulations need to take a breather for the sake of consumers.”

      That has to be one of the most ironic sentences I’ve ever read.

      If one ignores “climate change” then being able to “breath” is rather important and is a key aspect of pollution control. All “for the sake of consumers”.

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      “The government regulations need to take a breather for the sake of consumers.”

      this is so incredibly stupid and clueless I can only hope it’s satirical.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        How is it that manufacturers, who succeed or fail by consumers’ acceptance and repeat purchases…all want to KILL THEIR CUSTOMERS; and elected officials, who produce nothing and frequently get very-rich doing that…all have nothing but the noblest of intentions?

        Right now the average buyer cannot afford much more than the cheapest Korean entry-level car. A PICKUP TRUCK, a utility vehicle not-that-many years back, is now more expensive than the first house I bought. And a midsized car is something that a buyer needs a ten-year mortgage on.

        THAT is why someone needs to reign in these government agencies and the demented, officials who run them, who are completely detached from reality.

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Safety doesn’t sell.”

          – Lee Iacocca.

          • 0 avatar
            JustPassinThru

            ‘ “Safety doesn’t sell.”

            – Lee Iacocca.’

            He was right, too.

            Lido took Ford forward with his sales/financing program for the undistinguished 1956 Ford; then discovered a new market for the Falcon with youth-appeal configurations such as a ragtop. Stuff that McNamara would have gagged on.

            THEN…rebodying it into the Mustang. Setting sales records.

            THEN…pulling Chrysler out of its grave.

            I think you picked the wrong strawman to beat up, here, Jim…

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          …Right now the average buyer cannot afford much more than the cheapest Korean entry-level car….

          Well, in the early 90s, a beautiful 600SEC Mercedes cost about $150K which is what, about $250K today? Today’s S class Mercedes starts in the low $120s…so if that is the result of regulation, it seems to be good. Now we all know that today’s Mercedes don’t share the build quality and engineering of those from 30 years ago, but look at the content and safety equipment. Right now, comparing apples to apples as closely as possible indicates that cars are cheaper now, not more expensive.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Perhaps you’re not old enough to remember when we lost a Vietnam’s worth of KIAs on US highways every single year. Now that we’re down to an Argonne Forest’s worth every year doesn’t really mean we should declare the war won.

      • 0 avatar
        OldManPants

        I need an ascii emoticon for “deep bow”.

        Or a better commenting system.

      • 0 avatar
        JustPassinThru

        “Perhaps you’re not old enough to remember when we lost a Vietnam’s worth of KIAs on US highways every single year. Now that we’re down to an Argonne Forest’s worth every year doesn’t really mean we should declare the war won.”

        And sometimes the compromises and the sacrifices just aren’t worth it.

        You could save thousands more lives, with the stroke of a pen. Wouldn’t even take any engineering. JUST OUTLAW MOTORCYCLES.

        As a rider, I wouldn’t much like it…but since when do MY preferences enter into it? SAFETY. WE WILL SAVE YOU, EVEN AGAINST YOUR WILL.

        Once that’s done…outlawing personal cars except for specific government-approved uses would go even farther. Get everyone on government buses, where they’re safe – except, of course, from mashers, pickpockets, and terrorists wearing tritonal overcoats.

        • 0 avatar
          RHD

          You could save even more lives by leaving the motorcycles alone, and requiring all car passengers to wear helmets. No one would like it, but the numbers would be staggering.

          (With a nod of gratitude to the very wise and rational Dr. Dean Edell.)

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The reason drivetrains have been the primary focus of fuel economy improvements is that focusing on the body weight takes a lot more effort.

    It’s easier to exchange a 6-cylinder for a 4-cylinder to gain a 15% improvement, than it is to whack 30% of the car’s weight for the same improvement.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Eventually manufacturers will use more carbon fiber along with more aluminum and plastics. There are only so many gears you can put in an automatic transmission and there is a limit to how much more efficiency can be wrung out of an internal combustion engine.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus_3.0_AX4N

    So, adding lightness = adding cost. This isn’t a revelation.

    Cars may be heavier, but they sure are more powerful, economical and safer than they were back when they weighed less.

    Being heavy doesn’t have the same drawbacks it used to. When your car is heavy and you have 14″ tires and a wheezing, emissions-stangled 120 hp 5.8L V-8 mated to a 3 speed automatic, your performance, fuel mileage and driving experience are all terrible.

    Now you have a heavy sedan with between 200 and 300 hp V-6 and twice as many gears. Its safer, more efficient, and far more pleasant to drive and live with.

    My parent’s 2012 Taurus gets about 25-28 MPG average. My Taurus is far lighter, drastically less powerful and much smaller. It gets about the same average MPG.

    Compare a new Altima to a 1992 Stanza. I bet the Altima is heavier/bigger, more powerful, with more room and the same or better MPG. Wouldn’t surprise me if it were significantly bigger/heavier than a 92 Maxima and more efficient than a 92 Sentra.

    I get that adding lightness is the key to even better performance and MPG, but I don’t look at today’s “heavy” cars as the lumbering, ponderous and awful driving things that 1976’s heavy cars were. And with the added weight over 1980s cars, they’re still better overall, so I think its a fair trade at this point.

  • avatar
    tylanner

    Why are you expecting that average modern car to be lighter? In the equation that comprises a good car, weight is only a byproduct or statistic and not a transformed or designed variable.

    Sure at the margins you can make an argument for anything from engine displacement to alloys to plastics.

    I think it is an achievement that we haven’t seen weights explode commensurate with the growing list of demands from the average consumer.

    Those still bemoaning safety standards are beyond saving.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Ugh, so much misinformation here. Really living up to that B&B title.

    When you normalize for interior volume, cars are smaller and lighter (as well as faster, more fuel efficient, safer and cheaper).

  • avatar
    shaker

    Don’t forget 48V electrical systems – there may be a space where they will make sense as a weight-reduction strategy before EV’s become predominant.

    • 0 avatar
      Ugli

      How would 48 VDC act as a weight reduction?

      I can see a slight reduction in the average required wire gauge for a higher voltage system, but the battery size would overwhelm that. In colder climates, people require a high reserve capacity, and needing to add more cells in series to achieve 48 V without losing the storage capacity seems like it would result in a much larger, heavier battery.

      I’m trying to think of anything that would become meaningfully smaller or lighter at 48 V. Entertainment? No. Lighting? No. Power features? No. Engine management? No.

      What am I missing? The only argument I’ve heard in favor of moving beyond ye olde 12 VDC is to address the electrical requirements for current-hungry gimmicks. If anything, 48 V seems like it would allow the car companies to get even more nuts in those areas, thus adding weight.

    • 0 avatar
      shaker

      Sorry – 48V “Mild Hybrid”.

      http://www.freep.com/story/money/cars/2016/04/13/delphi-48-volt-technology-new-cars-2017/82949374/

      The stop/start motor and electric supercharger are 48V.

      The entire 12V system could be uprated to 48V, resulting in less current required for the same power rating, thus, thinner gauge wire (less copper), smaller motors for all powered accessories and even the stereo/speakers would be lighter. But, the cost of such improvements would outweigh (heh) the benefits.

      • 0 avatar
        JimZ

        48 volt interior electronics have safety implications too. 12 volts is not a shock hazard, 48 volts is. so now there has to be extra protection for the occupants (double insulation, shielded cabling, etc.) also, 48 volts is capable of striking and maintaining an electric arc (12 volts is not) so now you need ground-fault circuit protection of some sort in addition to short-circuit interrupters (fuses.)

  • avatar
    carguy67

    “… aluminum’s lack of durability limits its advantages and ease of enactment.”

    Good thing it’s not used in aircraft.

    • 0 avatar
      Ugli

      I don’t think this is a good comparison.

      If an aircraft impacts anything at virtually any speed, it’s generally a significant repair that involves a bunch of new parts because AL tears or cracks instead of bending. I don’t think that cars can afford to be quite that fragile, especially since they’re not largely modular like planes are.

      If people think that modern cars are totaled very easily as things are, just wait until AL becomes a structural component more often.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy67

        I took author’s statement of “aluminum’s lack of durability” as meaning, well, aluminum is not durable. Silly me. If he meant to quality that statement–as you did–he should have done it; i.e. “aluminum’s lack of durability in automotive context …”

        I’ve had several body repairs done to my Mustang; in all but one instance the shop has swapped in new panels. Properly repairing steel components simply takes too much time (and skill). The one time the shop tried to repair a front fender I immediately pointed out the deficiencies in the repair and insisted on a Ford replacement fender, and got it.

  • avatar
    Geekcarlover

    We have met the enemy, and it is us.

    Based just on comments from the last few weeks on TTAC. Someone made the comment last week that Mazda should just add the extra 20-30 pounds of soundproofing to make their cars closer to Toyota quiet. Readers here will not buy a car without power windows (Hand crank? What is it, a Model T!?!), power locks, mirrors, seats, heated seats and a heated steering wheel, infotainment system, separate climate controls, ect,ect, ect. All this on top of the hundreds of pounds of of safety equipment mandated by the government, and you have some severely bloated iron.

  • avatar
    shipping96

    I would think at some point down the road additive manufacturing might help contribute to shedding some weight.

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