Drivers looking for better fuel economy may have more options in the near future as automakers continue to place an emphasis on using lighter materials during construction. Known as "lightweighting," this trend has taken off in recent years as federal standards have mandated higher fuel economy for cars. By making cars less heavy, they reduce wind resistance and drive more efficiently, thus making each gallon of gas go further.
The U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy noted fuel economy can improve by 8 percent if a vehicle's weight is reduced by 10 percent. Further, as manufacturers look for lighter metals, they're also adopting new methods of construction.
For instance, aluminum is significantly lighter than other types of metals, and automakers are using it more frequently. However, it's more expensive to make cars fully with aluminum, so companies are using it on only certain parts of the vehicle in many cases. But once lightweighting catches on in a more mainstream sense, it will become cheaper to make better use of aluminum.
President of Ford Joe Hinrichs indicated aluminum is a good option at the moment but still has room to improve, according to The Detroit News.
"One of the big benefits you get from lightweighting… you can tow more and haul more," said Hinrichs. "You don't get those same benefits to a customer on the car side. Truck buyers will pay more for capability, car buyers will pay for fuel economy, but there's other ways to get fuel economy in a car without the need to provide more capability."
Though metals are the primary material used during construction, automakers are also looking at plastics, carbon fibers and other composites as well, according to Just Auto.
By integrating lighter materials, manufacturers run the risk of having cars comprised of several different surfaces and substrates, which makes it harder to build and conjoin parts - not to mention, finding the right replacement parts in the event of an accident. To solve this problem, companies are turning toward adhesives.
Rather than use screws, nails and rivets to hold cars together, manufacturers are using adhesives, which are lighter and reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. The demand for adhesives that can bind several different types of materials and substrates is key to making everything work well cohesively. As research continues in the field of automotive adhesives, and with electric cars becoming more common on roads, vehicles are collectively becoming more efficient machines.
Not only are automakers able to sell better products and comply with government regulations with lightweighting, this process allows companies to invest in new technology that promotes future growth. In addition, drivers of these cars receive the added benefit of saving money at the pump.
Drivers can also rest assured knowing their new purchases are more effective all around. And with the additional savings, drivers can reinvest their money into their auto insurance policies.
Because new cars typically have added safety and security features, drivers can receive discounts on their monthly insurance premiums. So not only will their cars be lighter and more efficient, but they will also likely contain advanced technology. For example, newer models tend to have better car handling systems along with Internet-enabled capabilities and anti-theft locks.
Though automakers are still looking for ways to make lightweight cars at a less expensive rate, all factors point toward this trend becoming larger in the future. And if you're interested in saving money, then investing in a lightweight car could be a great option.
Talk to your insurance agent as well to see if you qualify for any discounts this year.
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