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Is it time for automakers to get the fat out?
His main point was that higher oil prices and more price volatility are here to stay, and in the near future they will make the recent CAFE legislation totally irrelevant, as the consumer will demand fuel economy even higher than the 35 mpg average that legislation calls for.
However what caught my eye was a couple of paragraphs near the end of the article, that said:
"While automakers are investing large sums in exotic powertrains like fuel cells and electric plug-ins with lithium ion batteries, Lovins says automakers could make huge strides simply by making their vehicles lighter.
Moreover, such efforts to downsize do not require automakers to produce boring vehicles. Lovins approvingly noted Tesla's successful effort to eliminate unnecessary weight from its roadster, a vehicle with a top speed of 125 miles per hour.
Weight is the key, Lovins said. He quoted Henry Ford on the subject: "Weight may be desirable in a steam roller but nowhere else Whenever anyone suggests to me that I might increase weight or add a part, I look into decreasing weight and eliminating a part!"
I applauded heartily, as this is just what I have been thinking for a long time now. The American fleet is SERIOUSLY overweight, even given Americans' preference for larger vehicles. How could many of our midsize sedans weigh two tons or more?
If you look at the highest-EPA-rated "normal" gas car on the market today, the Yaris (I am excluding Tesla at $100K+, Lotus in its $50K+ niche, and the ForTwo because it has only two seats), you see that it is also the lightest, at around 2300 pounds. In its class, the next heaviest, the Fit, is about 5% heavier and gets about 5-7% worse fuel economy. The Accent weighs more than the Yaris and has reduced fuel economy also, similar to the Fit. And on it goes. Indeed, the same exercise can be played out across the car classes.
Do the Lambda crossovers have to weigh almost 5000 pounds? Do Auras and Avalons have to weigh most of two tons? And most compact cars more than 3000 pounds?
When I have broached this subject in the past, most of the posters here seem to have had the general response that yes, they do. So I was rather gratified to see that at least one person in the automotive design field didn't.
And it has not gone unnoticed by me that a number of automakers in the last few months, as gas prices shot up and up, have released notices to the press talking about how they were making weight reduction at every redesign a priority from now on. They too know that a lot of gas is wasted hauling around those needless extra pounds. Not to mention it naturally improves handling and reduces the need for expensive chassis improvements and huge rolling stock just to get decent handling out of the pigs we see for sale today.
Call it the purist POV, I dunno, but isn't it time we insisted on cars with reasonable weights again?
Link to the article on Amory Lovins: http://www.autonews.com/article/20080813/ANA02/438916715/1129/emaildetroit01&ref- - - sect=emaildetroit01
2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)