Browse Publications Technical Papers 2019-01-0518
2019-04-02

Passenger Car Lightweighting: Historical trends, future challenges and potential 2019-01-0518

Reducing vehicle weight (or the practice referred to as "lightweighting") is an understood and proven approach to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions. A 10% reduction in passenger car weight can result in at least a 5% improvement in fuel economy over a WLTC drive cycle, which is competitive compared to other improvement methods such as low rolling resistance tyres and features to improve aerodynamics. A study by Ricardo using a data sample of over 100 European passenger cars and SUVs shows that average weight increased by 12% between 1996 and 2016 and reduced by 0.6% between 2010 and 2016. Whilst the 12% weight increase can be easily attributed to a general growth in vehicle size, increased vehicle performance (such as safety, dynamics, comfort) and improvements to engine emissions controls, the 0.6% reduction may be viewed as modest or disappointing, given that European tailpipe CO2 emissions reduced by 21% in the same period and the apparent interest and investment in lightweighting technologies by most Global Manufactures during that period. The disparities between historic vehicle CO2 reductions and weight performance are investigated and the future challenges and opportunities for lightweighting are explored. Ricardo's expectation is that the growth in new electric vehicle architectures and platforms provides OEMs further opportunities to overcome some of the traditional manufacture & infrastructure hurdles when implementing weight-saving technologies. The higher cost of electric powertrains compared to conventional internal combustion engines coupled with the research and investment into more affordable lightweight materials and processes are also key enablers for further deployment weight reduction technologies in the future.

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