Lightweighting technology developments
Aaron Isenstadt and John German
Highlights important innovations and trends in vehicle design technology and lightweighting, many of which were not considered when the 2025 CAFE standards were finalized, but promise to be quite cost-effective.
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Weight reduction is one of the most important methods to reduce vehicle carbon dioxide emissions and increase fuel economy, as it lowers the energy required to move and stop the vehicle. Reducing vehicle mass also has many other consumer benefits: better performance, ride, handling, braking, and towing capacity. It also is one of the most cost-effective strategies to help meet fuel economy standards, and can even decrease the direct manufacturing costs.
Numerous advancements in computation and simulation, new materials, and design techniques comprise a broad palette of options for manufacturers. Despite this, the overall levels of lightweighting estimated in the future fleet remained relatively low when the 2025 corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas standards were finalized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Due to the wide variety of options currently available and in the pipeline, manufacturers will have plenty of opportunities to lightweight their vehicles within the next two design cycles between now and 2025. As a result, fleet-wide mass reduction will be greater than anticipated in the final rulemaking.
View the full series of working papers and technical briefs on passenger vehicle technology trends in the U.S. here.