The future of the automotive industry is committed to lightweight materials
The automotive industry does not stop, in its constant search for innovation and to attract an audience that in recent years has been elusive, betting on the future for materials that stand out for their lightness. So, carbon fiber roofs, plastic windshields or aluminum foam bumpers could be part of the car you might buy in the not so distant future. Although hybrid and electric vehicles have been attracting attention for innovation and caring for the environment in recent years, some experts point out that the real leap of innovation in fuel efficiency is the use of lighter materials.
The major vehicle manufacturers have experimented for a few decades with the use of lighter materials, but the issue has become more important with the adoption of new and strict standards that seek to demand a fuel efficiency of vehicles in the United States. To meet the government’s goals of doubling average fuel efficiency at 19.1 km per liter by 2015, cars need to lose a few kilos.
However, the use of lighter materials does not affect the safety of the vehicles. The use of new materials has already begun to stand out in the government’s impact tests. About 30% of new vehicles already have aluminum roofs, which absorb the same amount of energy as steel in a crash.
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Who came to the fore to demonstrate the advances in the development of vehicles with these new materials was Ford who recently offered a look at the future of its line of cars with a lightweight, Fusion model, which has carbon fiber wheels, aluminum discs, plastic windshield and aluminum roof, weighs 25% less than a conventional model and since promises a significant gasoline savings. The prototype, developed with the Department of Energy of the United States, is about 360 kilos lighter than a regular Fusion, thanks to dozens of modifications in parts and materials.
As it is lighter, the prototype can use the same small engine that is used in the subcompact Fiesta, which has a nominal performance of 19 kilometers per liter on the road. This engine has a fuel economy of up to 45 miles per gallon, which would make it very attractive to consumers who buy subcompacts, but want the comfort of the sedan.
A spokesman for Ford said in a statement that the automaker expects to apply its lightweight materials research through its product line in future high-volume models. “These are technologies that will permeate vehicles in the next three or five years,” said Matt Zaluzec, Ford’s technical leader for materials and manufacturing research.
It is estimated that if 50 kilos are eliminated from each of the 1,000 million cars in the world, 40,000 million dollars in fuel could be saved each year.