Amory Lovins, founder and chief scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute, recently spoke at Harvard, where he said America’s inefficient use of energy could be improved by re-thinking and redesigning systems, the Harvard University Gazette reports.
“All our experience tells us it [saving energy] is a highly profitable enterprise,” said Lovins.
Lovins says today’s cars are very inefficient, with roughly three-quarters of the energy generated by the engine going to waste, and less than 1 percent of the energy generated going to moving the driver from point to point.
According to Lovins, three-quarters of fuel use is related to weight, but that can be changed by building cars out of lightweight carbon fiber instead of steel. Lovins says a lighter vehicle will use less gasoline to run and require a smaller engine for the same performance, resulting in further weight and cost savings.
Carbon fiber may cost more than steel, but Lovins says it becomes a realistic building material when manufacturing advantages are considered. Carbon fiber can be molded into complex shapes, allowing cars to be made from fewer parts. Rocky Mountain Institute’s carbon fiber “Hypercar” requires only 14 parts. In addition, color can be added directly to the material as it is being molded, removing the need for paint shops entirely. Cranes and other machines can also be eliminated because the car body parts can be lifted with one hand and carried by employees.
Lovins says such a plant could save two-fifths of the costs of the leanest plant running today, including 99 percent of the tooling costs.
In August, the Intelligent Logistics for Innovative Product Technologies project concluded that it is possible to build cars to order within five days, which in turn cuts waste and emissions.