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What can we gain by lowering automobile mass?
Englishman Colin Chapman, a world-renowned manufacturer of Lotus brand sport vehicles once said, “Simplify, then add lightness.” What did he mean? He was searching for a way to increase the speed of his vehicles while retaining their current engines. Chapman was decreasing mass in hopes of achieving the highest possible speed. Today, however, we know that there’s a whole lot more to gain by lowering automobile mass.
The automobile industry has definitely transformed since the days of Chapman. Modern cars have to not only be fast, but also comfortable, safe and economical. Because it is much easier for a combustion engine to propel a lighter car, the lower the vehicle mass, the lower the amount of fuel needed to achieve desired performance. As a result, decreasing vehicle mass can lower fuel consumption by up to several liters per one hundred kilometers.
What are the benefits?
Lower consumption brings a whole array of benefits along with it, the first and most obvious one being monetary savings. It just makes sense- the less I fill up, the less I pay. Lower consumption, however, doesn’t only save our wallets, but our time and environment as well. That’s also rather straightforward. Fewer stops for gasoline equals less time spent on the road and a quicker arrival to our final destination. And we all know that time is the most precious commodity we have. The other benefit is lower emissions. A lighter car burns less fuel, thus naturally releasing fewer harmful emissions into the air. That has a positive impact not only on our health and the environment but is also important for helping us meet increasingly stricter emission norms from the European Union.
Over the years, the number of fast and powerful cars on the road has increased significantly, leading to an increased number of dangerous car collisions. As a result, safety and auto body resilience standards have gone up. Using traditional materials such as metal to meet these demands went hand in hand with noticeably increased mass. Manufacturers had to come up with different material options to meet safety norms while maintaining low density.
That’s where carbon fibers, light aluminum alloys and different types of modern plastic materials come into play.
Today, a classic modern automobile contains around 30,000 components, approximately 1/3 of which are made out of light plastics. They include, for example, polypropylene, polycarbonate and polyethylene. Their main advantage is that they offer superior safety standards while lowering density by up to half in contrast with traditional materials.
What are all the components in your car made from plastic? Find out next time!