Identifying Real World Barriers to Implementing Lightweighting Technologies and Challenges in Estimating the Increase in Costs
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Automakers have made great strides in lightweighting vehicles as a means to help achieve greater fuel efficiency. However, vehicle manufacturers face real-world challenges in finding cost-effective ways to continue implementing further mass reduction solutions needed to off-set weight gains due to increased demand for comfort, convenience, and safety technology. Regulators are evaluating the potential of lightweighting as a way to improve fuel economy without compromising safety, but among manufacturers and regulators, there is a wide range of opinions about what are the real world costs of achieving greater weight reduction. Every vehicle is unique, and “proof of concept” studies are focused simply on the goal of mass reduction without being constrained by the real world factors such as time and development process to qualify new materials, the cost of changing over existing manufacturing infrastructure, global platforms, and consumer demand for additional vehicle content.

The result is conflicting information about real-world circumstances impacting lightweighting and how much it may actually cost to achieve. This report is the first in an ongoing analysis by the Center for Automotive Research(CAR) intended to identify and bring perspective implementing technologies that can contribute to reducing emissions and improving fuel economy.

CAR has completed a series of targeted, in-depth interviews with engineers from automotive manufacturing companies, as well as consulting organizations to gain greater industry insight to this issue. Since it is broadly recognized that lightweighting is cost constrained, the cost to overcome these barriers is central to the discussion about how much lightweighting is achievable, appropriate, and cost effective. This overview will provide an introduction to identifying real manufacturing barriers and will serve as the foundation for additional research under way which focuses on quantifying impact on cost and timing to implement new lightweighting technologies. Topics raised in the report represent a range of short and long term challenges that can be approached collaboratively with the supply base to accelerate the introduction of many technologies.

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