The findings were presented to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration as officials review upcoming CAFE targets.Automakers will face difficulty significantly reducing weight of next-generation vehicles without embracing composite materials, according to a Center for Automotive Research study.The survey sought to determine which materials automakers will switch to for primary components if they need to reduce vehicle weight by several levels, ranging from five to 15 percent. Such reductions are viewed as critical in achieving mandatory mpg targets.
"If you really have to get lighter weight vehicles, there is a huge shift to composites, and especially carbon fiber," said CAR chief Jay Baron, as quoted by Automotive News. "Even in pillars and crossbeams and rails."
A group of nine automakers responded to the survey, providing detailed information on the parts materials for dozens of different 2015-model-year vehicles. All were mainstream models, together accounting for the majority of US sales, though the specific identity of each model was not disclosed by the study authors.
America's best-selling nameplate, the Ford F-150, was presumably included in the research and demonstrates one significant leap in lightweight-focused design and production. Extensive use of aluminum helped slash over 700 pounds, representing around 15 percent of the 2014 edition's curb weight.
The AN report suggests the CAR study was presented to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, presumably as part of a discussion about the looming Corporate Average Fuel Economy increase to 54.5 mpg in 2025. The industry has lobbied to reduce the threshold, which may prove more difficult to attain as consumers gravitate toward crossovers and SUVs.