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Lightweighting Grips Auto Industry

fordAutomakers are increasingly utilizing innovations including plastic windshields, foam bumpers and carbon fiber in an effort to lighten vehicles and increase fuel efficiency, reports the Associated Press.

Lightweighting is the “real frontier in fuel economy,” as companies race to meet the government’s goal of doubling average fuel economy to 45 mpg by 2025, the news service reports.

Last week, Ford unveiled its Lightweight Concept vehicle that features a carbon fiber and nylon composite instrument panel and an aluminum brake rotors that are 39 percent lighter than their cast iron equivalents. Overall, the concept car (pictured) reduces the weight of a 2013 Ford Fusion to that of a Ford Fiesta, resulting in a nearly 25 percent weight reduction.

In May, Range Rover announced that the use of lightweight plastics has helped to cut the weight and CO2 emissions of the new Range Rover Evoque. By using plastic resins by Saudi Basic Industries Corporation in instrument panels, spoilers and other parts, the company said it had reduced the car’s weight by by 35 percent compared to the 2010 Range Rover Sport model.

The average car has gained 800 pounds over the last 12 years and now weighs in at more than 3,900 pounds. Morgan Stanley estimates that by shaving 110 pounds from each of the 1 billion cars on the road could save $40 billion in annual fuel costs, reports the AP.

Lightweighting is the automotive industry’s best bet to achieve the 2025 corporate average fuel economy standard, Chuck Evans, corporate vice president at Henkel’s automotive group said in October.

In remarks at the WWJ Newsradio 950 Auto Summit in Southfield, Mich., Evans said there are many options to help automakers meet the requirement including advanced powertrains, vehicle downsizing, lightweighting and other innovations.

Citing an MIT study, Evans said focusing on lightweighting alone will result in the average new vehicle weighing 28 percent less in 2016 than it does today. “Just imagine what we can do by 2025,” Evans said.

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