Car manufacturers are constantly trying to improve the quality of their vehicles in different ways, whether through a more competitive price, better security, more attractive design, or improved energy efficiency.
Energy efficiency is proving to be an important point for the industry, especially for electric vehicles. One way efficiency can be improved is by reducing the weight of the vehicle. However, reducing the weight means an increase in costs, and many consumers believe that a lighter car is less safe.
So is there a future for lightweight cars?
Why Electric Cars Need To Be Lighter:
Obviously reducing the weight of a car means it will require less energy to accelerate, and research suggests that if the car manufacturers reduce the weight of a car by 10%, the fuel economy would be improved by around 6% to 8%. Furthermore, using lightweight materials can cut the weight of a car chassis in half.
Currently, the powertrain of a full-battery EV with a 35.8kWh battery pack and 100kW electric motor is nearly 125% heavier than a standard internal combustion engine vehicle powertrain.
With over a billion cars active in the world, reducing automotive emissions is a pressing concern for both the manufacturer and the customer. Safety and fuel economy are the main priorities for consumers when looking at a new car to purchase.
The need to reduce harmful emissions has led governments to apply significant pressure on automotive manufacturers to do their part, however the high cost of alternative lightweight materials and a resistance from consumer to pay for weight reduction has meant progress has been slow.
So what can the automotive industry do to reduce the weight of its vehicles?
Why Magnesium Might Be The Way Forward:
Magnesium has a number of structural and economic benefits. There are roughly 500,000 tonnes of magnesium produced every year, with plentiful reserves. It is also 75% lighter than steel, having the lowest density out of any metal used in car construction. Also, it is 100% recyclable. Because of this, it is predicted that magnesium will almost entirely replace mild steel in automotive manufacture over the coming years.
When designed and optimised in the right way, magnesium can provide greater strength and stiffness than other materials used in automotive manufacture. Magnesium is most used in the construction of powertrains. The industry is utilising magnesium more and more with each year.
How Composites Can Help Lightweighting:
Composites have been used for thousands of years, but new technology is making them stronger, more reliable, and easier to produce.
OEMs are now focusing on improved aerodynamics and lightweighting, and composites are perfect for this. The lighter the car is, the further its fuel will go, increasing its battery range. OEMs are also saving hundreds of kilograms using hollow castings rather than solid ones, making the vehicle yet more efficient.
Most manufacturers are using a mix of different materials to get the perfect blend of structural integrity while keeping the weight as light as possible.
The number one concern when designed and manufacturing any vehicle will always be safety. It is therefore crucial that any material or composite used in that manufacture is strong, sturdy, and safe.