The conventional wisdom when it comes to dramatic vehicle weight reduction is that it can be done, but not free. Basically, low cost or low weight, pick one. But a recently published study commissioned by the California Air Resources Board turns that presupposition on its head.
CARB commissioned U.K.-based Lotus Engineering to take a look at the feasibility of weight reduction in a midsize crossover, using a Toyota Venza as an example, with a particular eye on cost containment as well. The findings of the study were eye-opening, especially in the context we've been conditioned to believe.
Utilizing lightweight materials such as high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium composites, and advanced bonding techniques, body-in-white (BIW) mass could be reduced 37 percent, while still meeting federal safety standards. Following the conventional wisdom, the projected cost of the body-in-white would be $723 more expensive than a conventional crossover.
However, the study projected an overall savings of $239 per assembled vehicle could be achieved with a lower overall parts count, an increased level of component integration. But more impressive than the cost containment or BIW weight reduction was the massive overall vehicle weight reduction of 31 percent, or more than 1000 pounds. Some of the other weight-reduction factors such as optimization of vehicle sub-systems such as interior, suspension and chassis components, were part of the first phase of the study completed in 2010.
Hypothetical research studies often have a rose-colored outlook that doesn't hold up to the scrutiny and reality of the real world, but perhaps the holy grail of weight reduction at a reduced cost isn't as far off as first thought. The 2013 Range Rover proved dramatic weight reduction is possible on a premium-priced model, but if the findings in this study have merit, significant vehicle weight savings could be going mainstream.
Source: Lotus Engineering, CARB