Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Is it time for automakers to get the fat out?



  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    Apparently a bunch of people in Switzerland think the same way I do, although they are as concerned about public safety as they are about emissions and fuel economy:

    Swiss to vote on SUV ban

    Swiss campaigners launched a bid on Monday to ban gas-guzzling SUVs and luxury sports cars, winning enough support for a referendum.

    The Young Green party said on Monday in a statement, it had turned in 120,000 verified signatures gathered in support of a referendum, to be held within 18 months.

    "Our initiative slows global warming, protects cyclists, pedestrians and children, stops the arms race on the streets..., reduces pollution and is still reasonable," the initiators said on their Web site.

    Furthermore, new cars should weigh less than 2.2 tons and have a safer front in order to protect pedestrians.

    I would advocate a 2-ton limit for vans and SUVs, 1.5 tons for passenger sedans. So the Swiss aren't quite as strict as I want to be. ;-)

    And I would rather that consumers demand this of automakers than that regulators get involved.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • oldfarmer50oldfarmer50 Posts: 6,023
    "...Swiss to vote on SUV ban..."

    I suspect that has more to do with a Euro-Commie anti-American at all costs attitude than anything else. :mad:

    2009 PT Cruiser, 2008 Eclipse, 1995 Mark VIII, 1988 GMC Van

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    Sorta makes you proud to be an American, doesn't it. Nobody would ever pull that kind of crap here. :sick:
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    There wasn't one word in there about anti-American ANYTHING. Remember they are the Swiss, officially the country of neutrality. ;-)

    They are just worried because over-heavy and overly high vehicles are a danger to everyone - bikers, pedestrians, you name it.

    Over-heavy vehicles also happen to handle poorly and waste gas.......which is bad in an era of $4 gas.......

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • stevedebistevedebi LAPosts: 3,719
    "It may even turn out that the battery and hybrid components are the most reliable parts of the vehicle needing no replacement for any normal lifetime."

    Oh, I don't know. The Germans and English also make large SUVs.
  • kernickkernick Posts: 4,072
    While I generally agree with your sentiments that vehicles should be kept smaller and lighter, I don't necessarily agree with your comments on larger vehicles being inherently less safe. If the heavier vehicles are engineered properly they can be as safe to others as smaller vehicles. Whether a bicyclist is hit by an Explorer, a VW Beetle, or a Honda motorcycle travelling 40mph, the bicyclist is going to be in a world of hurt.

    And as far as wasting gas goes, waste is a very subjective term. What is waste to someone, is use and need to someone else. If your definition of waste is to move a person using the least amount of fossil-fuel energy from Pt A to Pt B, then we shouldn't even consider a motorized vehicle. An older Honda CRX HF could be considered wasteful if that's the goal. We all decide what is reasonable mpg, or what temperature it is reasonable to heat or AC our house to ...
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    No, absolutely there is a need for larger vehicles. There is no need for minivans (and vehicles that substitute for them like the Enclave/Outlook/Traverse) to weigh almost 5000 pounds though. There is no need for what are essentially 4-passenger sedans to weigh 3500, 3700 pounds.

    The weight creep in the last 20 years fleetwide is absurd. People are looking for the magic powertrain pill that is suddenly going to save them lots of fuel now that gas prices are high, but there are lots of aspects of the modern cars sold in North America that contribute to the amount of gas they use, and weight is a significant and problematic one. My feeling is that problem is also a needless one.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • grbeckgrbeck Posts: 2,361
    nippononly: There is no need for minivans (and vehicles that substitute for them like the Enclave/Outlook/Traverse) to weigh almost 5000 pounds though. There is no need for what are essentially 4-passenger sedans to weigh 3500, 3700 pounds.

    When you consider safety equipment, the demand for stronger structures, features and conveniences demanded by customers, and customer demand for improved control of noise, vibration and harshness (or what we refer to as "refinement"), it's easy to see why vehicles weigh more.

    Maybe some people only drive their vehicles around town, and aren't concerned about noise control, and don't need to cruise silently and comfortably at 75-90 mph, but lots of us do. Perhaps there should be more "city cars" that are will be used in urban areas, but that won't work for most of us, who aren't about to buy a car just for use in one area.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    I think Honda has actually done a pretty good job at keeping a lot of their weights down. For instance, here are some specs, taken from Edmunds, of various years...

    1993 Accord LX sedan: 2866 lb
    1997 Accord LX sedan: 2899 lb
    2002 Accord LX sedan: 3031 lb
    2007 Accord LX sedan: 3197 lb
    2008 Accord LX sedan: 3289 lb

    I picked the automatic transmission model, where it gave you a choice to pick. For 1993 and 1997 it didn't though, so I'm presuming those weights are for the stick shift, so this may not be a totally fair comparison.

    None of those have really been huge weight jumps IMO. The biggest jump is from '02-07, at 166 lb. Interestingly, the '03-07 generation is also the first Accord that I'd consider a comfortable midsized car. The '98-02, while a nice car, just felt too small for my tastes.

    So basically, from the 1990-93 generation, to the 2008+ generation, we've seen weight go up about 15%. We also have a car that fills a totally different market today. Years ago it was a compact, and today it's a midsize (the EPA actually classifies it as full-size if you don't get the sunroof!) It's about 9-10" longer, about 5-6" wider, much roomier inside (although oddly, published trunk volume is no larger).

    The 2008 also gets better fuel economy. The 1993 4-cyl/automatic is rated at 19/26, using those new, downrated numbers. The 2008 4-cyl/automatic is rated at 21/31. I'm sure some of that improvement, especially on the highway, is due to one extra gear in the transmission, but even if it weren't for that I'm sure it would still be improved.

    I'm sure that if they stripped some weight off the Accord, it might improve fuel economy a bit. But at what ultimate cost? I mean, you couldn't just jettison 15% of that car's weight and automatically pick up 15% improved fuel economy. And you'd probably lose a lot of the car's rigidity, safety, silence, and comfort.

    One car from 1993 that I can think of that's about the same size as a 2008 Accord is, believe it or not, a Buick LeSabre, Olds 88, or Pontiac Bonneville. They were a bit bigger inside and in trunk volume, but the 2008 Accord has about the same external dimensions. But in this case, the Accord is actually LIGHTER than the similar sized car from 1993! Those GM cars were about 3500 lb I think. And still, more fuel efficient. The 3.8 is rated 17/26 in those cars, using the newer, downrated numbers.

    I don't think we're really going to see cars lose a lot of weight unless we want to go back to the way things were in the late 70's, when they started rolling sheetmetal thinner, using under-sized transmissions, and eliminating little details like roll-down rear door windows. And then they downsized the engines at the same time they were shaving the weight off the cars, so in many cases, performance still sucked!
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    many of the big car companies have now publicly committed to reducing the weight of their vehicles, and they seem pretty serious that they will be able to accomplish that.

    I was reading a very encouraging article yesterday that cited Toyota, Nissan, and GM among the automakers that saw a need for weight reduction, and were making it a priority from now on. So maybe the question I posed already has an answer from the manufacturers themselves!

    As for all the considerations grbeck mentioned, you have to remember that any car design is merely a balance of many factors, the most important of which is usually cost. One of the things I am hoping the industry will now explore is whether a few hundred dollars extra per unit in costs will translate to notable weight reductions accomplished by the use of better materials.

    I would imagine the move away from larger engines towards smaller ones, and the same trend in transmissions (especially automatics), could also contribute to weight reductions. We have just barely seen the start of these trends in the last few years (lots more turbos on the market, smaller engine displacements with more specific power output, automatics gaining numbers of gears even as they get physically smaller and lighter) - my hope is that they could now accelerate.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    Sometimes I do wonder what would happen if the auto makers had applied all the fuel economy improvements to cars, but without all the stuff that added weight. For example, instead of taking the Accord to where it is now, what if they just kept the 1990-93 style? But gave it a modern 5-speed automatic and a 2.2 liter version of the engine that it has today? And kept the smaller tires and wheels from the 1990 era?

    My guess is that you'd end up with better economy than the current Accord, but still not as good as the Civic, which is still lighter and has a smaller engine. It would probably perform better than either of the two, though.

    I guess one reason that I question how much weight really comes into play stems from when I took a trip down to Florida 3 years ago. We took my 2000 Intrepid, and had three people on board, the trunk stuffed to the gills, and some luggage spilling into the back seat. I imagine those two extra passengers, plus all the luggage, easily added 500-600 lb to that car. As for fuel economy? I averaged 27-28 mpg on that trip. Mostly highway, but stuck in some traffic jams,and running 70-80 mph as much as possible, a/c running the whole time.

    However, 27-28 mpg is about what I'd get with that car if it was just me on board, a/c cranked up, running 70-80 mph. So in this case, that extra 500-600 lb had a negligible effect on economy. Now I'm sure if I did more local, stop and go driving, it would've been felt.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    Sure, highway mileage is all about momentum. Once you have the thing cruising at 70, it only takes a very small percentage of the engine's power to keep it at that speed. OTOH, lugging all that weight away from stops drags the fuel economy down.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    Are vehicles too heavy? Yes. Surprisingly, my favorite example of weight control is that ugly American, the Corvette. They weigh no more today than they did 20 years ago! Contrast that to any other car, domestic or imported. The major culprits in weight gain? As mentioned, it's a combination of size, power, handling, comfort, and safety. How many car reviews have you read that said "the new Whatever is 50/80/120% stiffer than the old model"? And how many ads trumpet 5-star crash performance? So don't kid yourself, to get lighter cars will require us to sacrifice some combination of size, power, handling, safety, comfort, and money. Car designers aren't stupid, they don't have blocks of iron hanging off that can just be deleted.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,676
    I am a big Porsche fan, but it is embarrasing to me how much better Vettes have done with weight than 911s over the past 30 years. Off the top of my head, I can't think of another car that has lost weight over that time period. Similar engine, similar size, a lot more space inside on the new one, and all the safety stuff has been added. How did they do it?
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    The real trick for automakers will be getting weight under control in models that DON'T cost $50K, and seat more than two.

    It is a shame that no-one ever touts the advantages of lower weight in marketing. If they did, we might have people clamoring for lighter cars, giving automakers financial incentive to do something about the pork.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    "How did they do it? "

    Well, you could say that they had lots of room to improve, what with the earlier Vette's heavy frame, etc. They really went after improving the chassis through better design, rather than more metal. Don't they use some kind of balsa composite in the floor for stiffness? And aren't the springs now fiberglass?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 21,599
    I'd imagine they've also seen some weight savings in the engine block, itself. Now I don't know how advanced the Corvette's engine was 20 years ago, but the Chevy smallblock was always a pretty chunky little engine. Low reciprocating mass and small size yes, but in overall weight it was a bit of a porker.

    Still, I'm sure just about everybody has saved weight in their engines compared to 20 years ago yet the cars themselves are often heavier, so evidently the Corvette has been toning down the excess in other areas, as well.
  • texasestexases Posts: 5,424
    "I'd imagine they've also seen some weight savings in the engine block, itself."

    I think you're right, what with the current aluminum block, heads, etc. Another weight-saver (well, weight gain avoider) is the continued use of the OHV design. Gotta be saving a lot of weight compared to having 4 OHCs, had they gone that route.
  • Maybe we should look at "weight per passenger". A 5000 lb vehicle that can carry 8 would have a 625 lb per passenger number. A 3000 lb vehicle that can only carry 4 would have a 750 lb per passenger number.
  • nippononlynippononly SF Bay AreaPosts: 12,669
    Nah. The problem with that approach is that whether it is a vehicle designed for 4 or 8, it will most often be carrying 1, or 2 at the most. Americans overbuy when it comes to their vehicles.

    And either way, as Lovins points out, the percentage of a car's curb weight that it can carry as passengers and cargo is much too low.

    2013 Civic SI, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (stick)

This discussion has been closed.