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Why Cars Are Getting Smaller

  • by: Conor McKeon
  • On: 13, Dec 2018
2 min read

In the past cars were status symbols: designed to be imposing, powerful and impressive. As times have changed, cars have changed both in their design and ther meaning to their owners, becoming more practical.

Since the turn of the century, there has been a trend in car manufacturers designing smaller cars. Market forces, fuel efficiency, new technology, and an increase in urbanised living have all contributed to smaller car manufacturing. Around 80% of the space in a car is completely empty when being driven by just one person, so there is potential for cars to become much smaller over the coming years.

Why Are Cars Getting Smaller?

1. Engines Are Getting Smaller And More Efficient

One reason for cars becoming smaller is that you just don’t need eight cylinders to move a car any more. A 1.4 litre engine can comfortably generate enough power for most cars, with a lower rate of fuel consumption. In some cases, a one litre three-cylinder engine of today is more powerful than a 1.6 litre four-cylinder engine of the previous generation.

Forced induction technology is likewise becoming more efficient and widespread, meaning smaller engines can achieve surprising horsepower. Turbochargers have been used in high-performance cars for a long time, but now that Automotive technology has been refined and condensed into a smaller form, it can be implemented to manufacture more traditional petrol cars.

These developments have only been possible because of improvements in Automotive engineering and technology. Engines are now built with nickel alloys instead of cast iron, meaning the engine can withstand and maintain efficiency at higher temperatures. Computer modelling has allowed for more precise parts that build better engines. Sophisticated software can track how the engine is running and time the valves to be perfectly synchronised, which could not be achieved without the Automotive software.

2. Cars Are Being Driven in Increasingly Urbanised Spaces

Larger cars are a burden in cities and urban spaces. With the number of cars sold to millennials plummeting, car manufacturers are looking at other avenues to maximise profits.

The total area of the world’s cities is set to triple over the next 40 years, and more people are moving to urban areas in an attempt to improve their lives. This has the knock-on effect of increasing congestion in the city centres; car manufacturers are attempting to tap into the market by providing smaller cars for everyday use that are easier to navigate through cities.

Could Cars Get Even Smaller?

The increase in urban living, and millennials having smaller families, means some designers are looking to make cars even smaller – down to two- or even one-seater cars. The engines could be as small as 660cc, and the cars could be made of lightweight composites. A reduction in weight and mass means the cars will require less energy to move and could soon look more like pods than cars as we know them.

As cars become more energy-efficient, switching from fossil fuels to electric energy, they’ll likely shrink further as they require less space to run.

Read more about How Car Design Has Changed, or learn What The Shift To Electric Cars Means For The Automotive Industry.

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