Recently, some designers have searched for innovative ways to create significantly lighter weight vehicles. Earlier this month, the PACE Awards in Detroit recognized these efforts. At an awards ceremony, sponsors honored 13 industry component supply firms and three automotive manufacturers for their achievements in cutting significant amounts of weight from new automobiles.
Lighter Weight Automobiles
What benefits do lighter weight vehicles offer auto manufacturers today? Some engineers maintain that reducing the weight of a car facilitates the use of hybrid and electric engines, which frequently encounter difficulty powering heavier vehicles. Ideally, a new, ultralight automobile could take full advantage of recent innovations that enhance fuel efficiency.
The PACE Awards offered special recognition to three manufacturing firms: Honda, Audi and Ford. The sponsors praised these companies for working in close collaboration with component designers to develop low weight systems for some vehicles. They singled out three specific collaborative efforts for recognition:
- Honda, for collaborating with Continental on a light weight long range interactive communications system;
- Audi, for working closely with Roechling Automotive on an oil distribution system and with FTE Automotive on a low-pressure oil pump;
- Ford, for partnering with GKN Driveline to develop an innovative light all-wheel drive system for the Twinster.
The 13 auto component manufacturing firms honored at the PACE awards contributed a variety of innovations, ranging from ultra-light weight display mirrors manufactured by Gentex Corporation in Michigan to automotive exterior and seating carving technology developed by the French firm Faurecia Automotive Seating.
The PACE Awards ceremony demonstrates that an important niche market has developed in recent years as manufacturers strive to create innovative lighter weight automotive parts and accessories. During the past two decades, manufacturers frequently achieved lighter weight models by downsizing existing designs. That effort has essentially reached the limits of practicality in the opinion of some engineers.
An Illustration: Faurecia Automotive Seating
The North American branch of Faurecia Automotive Seating focuses extensively on efforts to increase fuel economy through the development of lighter weight automobiles. The French company just recently signed a multi-million dollar agreement to sell its bumpers and auto exterior modules manufacturing business to another automotive parts supplier, Plastics Omnium.
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