Lightweight cars: How important are they?

Posted on 27 Sep 2018 by Maddy White

Autonomous and electric cars are dominating discussions in the automotive industry. But, what about lightweight vehicles, how important are they?

The main benefit of introducing lightweight vehicles is the potential for improved efficiency in electric vehicles and emission reductions. The latter has seen governments across the world – in light of the Paris Agreement – cracking down on.

What is the Paris Agreement?

The Paris Agreement is a climate deal signed in 2016 by every country in the world, apart from Syria and Nicaragua who’ve now signed, with the US having dropped out since.

The contract is a global action plan to avoid climate change by limiting global temperature to below 2°C, with each country establishing their own rules and regulations to execute this.

A new research project, named Tucana, aims to deliver stiffer and lighter vehicle structures, with the help of experts from WMG at the University of Warwick.

The research will develop cost effective, scalable carbon fibre composite solutions – image courtesy of Martin Neeves Photography & Film.

An investment of £4m from the £18.7m allocated government funding via the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) will be given to Project Tucana, to drive the development of innovative lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures.

The research will develop cost effective, scalable carbon fibre composite solutions, with the aim to boost the performance of electric vehicles.

The potential CO2 benefit of the project between 2023-2032, is thought to be that of 4.5 million tonnes.

Comparatively, in 2014, the average UK home emitted 8.1 tonnes of CO2, and 34% of this figure was allocated to a home’s automotive emissions, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).

As part of the project, WMG will manufacture the carbon fibre components, in their new Materials Engineering Centre, which will reportedly have dedicated facilities for composite and hybrid structures.

Are lightweight vehicles a realistic future?

With the numerous changes set to happen in the automotive industry, is it viable or fair to manufacturers in the sector to make this transition?

Dyson is now focusing on entering the electric vehicle space - image courtesy of Dyson.
Many companies are looking to new automotive technologies, including electrical appliance manufacturer, Dyson – image courtesy of Dyson.

Supply chains and processes are extremely complex, and this latest development seems to align with the current government energy policies – which, seem to change frequently.

Given for example that the government in 2001 subsidised diesel, and encouraged consumers to trade in their petrol cars for diesel vehicles. But now, the government propose to ban diesel vehicles entirely and promote low carbon and EVs. What will be the objective in the next 10 years?

No doubt, lightweight cars are important. However, industry needs support in order to actually integrate this into the sector.

Being able to implement an entirely different strategy and source new materials, is certainly part of a flexible business model for manufacturers, but it is easier said than done.

In order for manufacturers, consumers and the entire industry to adopt these latest technologies, the country’s leaders must provide a long term commitment to the industry, alongside incentives such as financial backing, policy support and investment in infrastructure.

Find out about how the Greater Manchester area supports commercialisation in lightweight materials.

Tucana, brings together a consortium of world-leading academic and industry partners. Led by Jaguar Land Rover, other partners in the project are Expert Tooling & Automation Limited, Broetje-Automation UK Ltd, Toray International U.K. Limited, CCP Gransden Lltd, and Magna Exteriors (Banbury) Limited.

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