Lightweighting remains top focus for automakers
The over 600 person survey asked industry experts, engineers and manufacturers to identify technologies their companies use to meet the 2025 CAFE standards.
In order to meet the 2025 CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards, automakers have looked to a number a different options. Recent findings part of the annual WardsAuto survey, sponsored by DuPont Automotive, suggest that lightweighting and engine efficiency are the top two technology strategies automakers are focusing on. The study also noted that electrification is increasingly important in meeting the standards.
The over 600 person survey asked industry experts, engineers and manufacturers to identify technologies that their companies are focusing on to meet the 2025 standards. More than half of the respondents, 63 percent, agreed that lightweighting and the use of lightweight structural materials was a significant strategy effort. About half (49 percent) also recognized the importance of engine efficiency programs.
A midterm review of the 2025 CAFE Standards is scheduled for next year. The current survey saw 87 percent of the respondents expecting the standards for fuel economy and emissions to become more stringent or remain the same. At the same time, 90 percent say low gas prices in combination with slow sales of fuel efficient, low-emissions vehicles will continue to impact programs aimed at meeting CAFE regulations.
While lightweighting was at the top of the technology focus area, powertrain and chassis continue to remain as the top two vehicle systems that automakers target for lightweighting. Of the respondents, 44 percent mentioned powertrain and chassis as the primary areas for lightweighting.
The light-duty vehicle CAFE and GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions rate standards require, on an average industry fleetwide basis, 163 g/mile of CO2 in model year 2025, which would be equivalent to 54.5 mpg (4.3L/100km) if this level were achieved solely through improvements in fuel efficiency. However, 54.5 mpg is a non-adjusted theoretical laboratory compliance value that does not include special credits for such things as high-efficiency air-conditioning systems and active grille shutters that improve vehicle aerodynamics. Most experts believe 54.5 mpg will translate to about 40 mpg in real-world fuel economy.
Respondents continue to be only moderately confident that the current portfolio of materials will help the industry meet the looming standards.
According to the survey respondents, the most relied upon material families to help meet the CAFE standards are aluminum (25 percent) and multi-material solutions (21 percent). Advanced composites, engineered plastics and advanced high-strength steel were the top 2nd tier choices with all 3 materials combining for 39 percent of the respondent’s choices.