Tuesday, September 30, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Auto industry gets serious about lighter materials

By
June 10, 2014 |

Autos-Lightening Up

This undated photo provided by Ford Motor Co. shows a lightweight Fusion sedan that was unveiled Tuesday, June 3, 3014. The prototype is 800 pounds lighter than a regular Fusion thanks to more use of aluminum and other materials. (AP Photo/Ford Motor Co.)

DEARBORN, Mich.— Roofs made of carbon fiber. Plastic windshields. Bumpers fashioned out of aluminum foam.

What sounds like a science experiment could be your next car.

While hybrids and electrics may grab the headlines, the real frontier in fuel economy is the switch to lighter materials.

Automakers have been experimenting for decades with lightweighting, as the practice is known, but the effort is gaining urgency with the adoption of tougher gas mileage standards. To meet the government’s goal of nearly doubling average fuel economy to 45 mpg by 2025, cars need to lose some serious pounds.

Lighter doesn’t mean less safe. Cars with new materials are already acing government crash tests. Around 30 percent of new vehicles already have hoods made of aluminum, which can absorb the same amount of impact as steel. Some car companies are teaming up with airplane makers, which have years of crash simulation data for lightweight materials.

Ford gave a glimpse of the future last week with a lightweight Fusion car. The prototype, developed with the U.S. Department of Energy, is about 800 pounds lighter than a typical Fusion thanks to dozens of changes in parts and materials.

The instrument panel consists of a carbon fiber and nylon composite instead of steel. The rear window is made from the same tough but thin plastic that covers your cellphone.

The car has aluminum brake rotors that are 39 percent lighter than cast iron ones and carbon fiber wheels that weigh 42 percent less than aluminum ones.

Because it’s lighter, the prototype can use the same small engine as Ford’s subcompact Fiesta, which gets an estimated 45 mpg on the highway.

The car won’t be in dealerships anytime soon. For one thing, it’s prohibitively expensive. Its seats, for example, cost up to $73 apiece because they have carbon fiber frames. The same seats with steel frames are $12.

Still, prototypes are helping Ford and other companies figure out the ideal mix of materials.

“These are the technologies that will creep into vehicles in the next three to five years,” said Matt Zaluzec, Ford’s technical leader for materials and manufacturing research.

Some vehicles have already made a lightweight leap. Land Rover’s 2013 Range Rover, which went on sale last year, dropped around 700 pounds with its all-aluminum body, while the new Acura MDX shed 275 pounds thanks to increased use of high-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium.

Ford has unveiled an aluminum-body 2015 F-150 pickup, which shaves up to 700 pounds off the current version. The truck goes on sale later this year.

The average vehicle has gained more than 800 pounds over the last 12 years and now tops out at just over 3,900 pounds, according to government data. Not only have cars gotten bigger, but safety features like air bags and more crash-resistant frames have also added weight. General Motors’ Chevrolet Volt electric car has to drag around a 400-pound battery.

Morgan Stanley estimates than shaving 110 pounds off each of the 1 billion cars on the world’s roads could save $40 billion in fuel each year.

“Lightweighting is going to be with us for a long time,” said Hesham Ezzat, a technical fellow at GM. “Every manufacturer is going to have to leverage their entire palette of materials.”

Here’s a look at some of the materials automakers will use to shed the pounds:

HIGH-STRENGTH STEEL: Steel isn’t going away. Chances are, high-strength steel — a lighter and stronger steel mixed with other elements such as nickel and titanium — already makes up at least 15 percent of your car’s weight. Some newer models, such as the Cadillac ATS, are nearly 40 percent high-strength steel.

High-strength steel costs about 15 percent more than regular steel, but less than other materials such as aluminum. It still weighs more than aluminum, but continuing advances could cut that weight. Extremely thin but strong steels made with nanotechnology — which manipulates the metal at the molecular level — could be on cars by 2017.

ALUMINUM: The typical vehicle already contains around 340 pounds of aluminum, or about 10 percent of the weight of a midsize car. It’s most commonly used in engines, wheels, hoods and trunk lids.

Aluminum is lighter than steel and easy to form into a variety of parts. It’s also more corrosion-resistant than steel.

There are drawbacks. The supply of steel is many times greater than that of aluminum, and will be for many years. Aluminum also costs 30 percent more than conventional steel, and a rapid increase in demand could make aluminum prices volatile.

Still, consultant McKinsey and Co. predicts aluminum’s use in the auto industry will triple by 2030.

CARBON FIBER: Airplanes use it. Boats use it.

Carbon fiber is a high-strength material made from woven fibers. It’s half the weight of steel, it is resistant to dents and corrosion, and it offers the most design flexibility, since it can be shaped in ways that stamped metal can’t.

But the high cost of carbon fiber and the time it takes to form it into parts are huge barriers for the auto industry.

Petroleum-based strands must go through several stages before they’re woven into carbon fiber. After that, it takes five minutes to form the material into a part, compared with one minute for steel or aluminum. On an assembly line producing a car every minute, that’s simply too long. Plus, carbon fiber is five to six times more expensive than steel, according to McKinsey.

Automakers, the government and others are experimenting with cheaper materials for the fibers and faster-curing resins that could shorten the time to form parts. McKinsey believes that could significantly shrink the price gap by 2030.

Until then, expect to see carbon fiber in limited amounts on low-volume or luxury cars. The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, which starts at $51,000, has a carbon fiber hood and roof, while the $41,350 BMW i3 electric car is built around a carbon fiber frame.

 

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Fairfield police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Fairfield police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Sept. 28, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

 
Suisun City police log: Sept. 27, 2014

By Glen Faison | From Page: A12

Police search for missing man

By Glen Faison | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
 
Measure A committee plans weekend precinct walk

By Susan Winlow | From Page: A5

 
Voters who have moved urged to check registration

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

Caltrans cancels nighttime Highway 37 closures

By Barry Eberling | From Page: A5

 
.

US / World

5 more bodies found at Japan volcano; toll now 36

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Group: Wildlife populations down drastically

By The Associated Press | From Page:

45 dogs dead, 48 alive after North Las Vegas fire

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Police link 2nd case to missing Va. student arrest

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Netanyahu: Hamas, Islamic State group share creed

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Cancer doctor given 10 years for poisoning lover

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Afghan president sworn in, paving way for US pact

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Police ease tactics in Hong Kong protest standoff

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Study: Recessions can postpone motherhood forever

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
White House intruder got far past front door

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Obama efforts to oust Assad pushed to back burner

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Islamic State closes in on Kurdish area of Syria

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Sacramento police seek suspect in dog’s drowning

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Shooing birds from Bay Bridge could cost millions

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Governor signs bills to help those in foster care

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Mountain View police ID gas victims as father, son

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 30, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page:

 
President Obama will go out with a war cry

By Doyle Mcmanus | From Page:

Threat of attack ruining taxpayers’ rights

By Dan K. Thomasson | From Page:

 
.

Living

Today in History: Sept. 30, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
I’m unhappy with Phil and playing ‘happy family.’ What should I do?

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page:

Community Calendar: Sept. 30, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page:

 
Horoscopes: Sept. 30, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: B7

.

Entertainment

Amanda Bynes arrested for DUI in Los Angeles

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
They did. They do. Clooney/Alamuddin wedding No. 2

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Football commands highest TV ad prices

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Walmart: Morgan, others weren’t wearing seatbelts

By The Associated Press | From Page:

TVGrid Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B8

 
.

Sports

Developer asks for more time for LA football plan

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Monday’s sports transactions

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders fire coach Dennis Allen

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Prep boys soccer: VCS still looking for 1st win of season

By Daily Republic staff | From Page:

 
Charles sends Chiefs to 41-14 rout of Patriots

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Clippers return focus to team post-Sterling

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Giants have ample experience facing elimination

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Dover installs catch fence for 2015 NASCAR season

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Warriors happy to have core back, build on success

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

All-women sports show debuts with perfect timing

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Autopsy shows Chiefs LB Belcher had CTE damage

By The Associated Press | From Page:

AJ Hinch hired to manage Astros

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Phil Mickelson saves best shot for his captain

By The Associated Press | From Page:

MLB batting average lowest since 1972 – before DH

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Wild, wild SEC West set for historic day

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Kershaw 1st to lead majors in ERA 4 straight years

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
AP source: 7 umpires rotate at World Series

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Pagenaud joins Penske for 2015 IndyCar season

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Texas’ Strong tells Goodell colleges can do better

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Hornets await NBA investigation into Taylor

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Trout, Strasburg giving playoffs a fresh look

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
NC State coach: No. 1 Florida State faked injuries

By The Associated Press | From Page:

A’s Lester, Royals’ Shields in AL wild-card focus

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Raiders’ season spinning out of control

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

Harbaugh dismisses reports of 49ers discord

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
3-way race for NL MVP; Trout takes his turn in AL

By The Associated Press | From Page:

Stewart never considered retiring after Ward death

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

 
Twins fire manager Ron Gardenhire after 13 seasons

By The Associated Press | From Page:

.

Business

Bank of America paying $7.65M to resolve inquiry

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
Microsoft to offer early look at next Windows

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

US stocks head lower, following drops overseas

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
US consumer spending up 0.5 percent in August

By The Associated Press | From Page: | Gallery

ATM fees keep climbing, survey says

By The Associated Press | From Page:

 
.

Obituaries

.

Comics

Beetle Bailey Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Garfield Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

For Better or Worse Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
B.C. Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Wizard of Id Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sudoku Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Dilbert Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Crossword Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

Baby Blues Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Peanuts Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Baldo Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Sally Forth Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Cryptoquote Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Frank and Ernest Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Pickles Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Blondie Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Zits Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
Get Fuzzy Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Bridge Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
Rose is Rose Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

Word Sleuth Sept 30

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B7

 
.

Discover Solano Fall/Winter 2014

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Sonoma County

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: DIS2

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Winters

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS3

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Historic Downtown Winters

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS3

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Napa County

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS20

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Yolo County

By Jess Sullivan | From Page: DIS23

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Western Railway Museum

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS23

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Benicia

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS29

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Benicia Plein Air Gallery

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS31

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Downtown Benicia

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS31

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Benicia Fire Museum

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS31

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Benicia Marina

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS32

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Dixon

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS33

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Fairfield

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: DIS35

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Jelly Belly Candy Co.

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS36

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Solano Town Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS36

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Fairfield Aquatics Complex

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS37

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Anheuser-Busch Brewery Tours

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS37

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Suisun Valley

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS39

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Glashoff’s Studio

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS40

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Manka’s Corner

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS41

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Wine Tasting

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS41

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Rio Vista

By Susan Winlow | From Page: DIS42

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Foster’s Bighorn Bar

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS43

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Suisun City

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: DIS45

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Rush Ranch

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS46

Discover Solano Fall 2014: The Suisun Wildlife Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS46

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Grizzly Island

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS46

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vacaville Museum

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS47

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Downtown Vacaville

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS47

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vacaville Premium Outlets

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS48

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vacaville

By Susan Winlow | From Page: DIS49

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Nut Tree Plaza

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS50

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vallejo

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS52

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Mare Island Museum

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS53

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Children’s Wonderland

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS53

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vallejo Symphony

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS53

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS54

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Flyway Festival

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS54

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Bay Area Ridge Trail

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS54

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vallejo Baylink Ferry

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS54

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Empress Theatre

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS54

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Solano County

By Barry Eberling | From Page: DIS55

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Solano County Golf Courses

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS56

Discover Solano Fall-Winter 2014 Calendar

By Glen Faison | From Page: DIS57

Discover Solano Fall 2014: The Petrified Forest

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Winters Opera House

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Sterling Winery

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Safari West

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: UC Davis Mondavi Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Calistoga Hot Springs

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Bale Grist Mill

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS59

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Scientopia Discovery Center

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Old Faithful Geyser

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: The Sonoma Raceway

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Hot Air Ballooning

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Robert Louis Stevenson Park

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Sonoma Train Town

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Vintage Aircraft Company

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60

Discover Solano Fall 2014: Casinos

By Susan Hiland | From Page: DIS60