Whether battery cars, like the Chevy Volt, or more conventional products, cutting weight and improving aero are two critical challenges for designers.
Bigger is better. It’s been the automotive mandate since the days of Henry Ford. And with rare exception, that’s precisely what automakers have delivered, vehicles that grow bigger and heavier with every new generation.
But driven by consumer demand for better mileage – and rapidly rising federal fuel economy standards – the push is now in the other direction. According to many experts, the cars we drive will be substantially smaller and lighter by the end of the decade.
But the process isn’t as simple as it might seem, especially in the U.S., where people equate size with luxury. Complicating matters, Consumers expect more features and more and more safety equipment,” said General Motors designer Bob Boniface, and even that little CD changer built into the dash adds five pounds of mass.
Stay on Top!
Boniface was one of three designers invited to a panel addressing the subject of “lightweighting,” the challenging effort to deliver more of what customers want – and what government regulations require – while somehow lowering the mass of tomorrow’s automobiles.
Ford, for example, has set a goal of trimming as much as 750 pounds off the weight of future models. And other manufacturers have set similar goals. But getting there isn’t easy and will depend on some creative solutions from the industry’s designers and engineers.