Lotus Study: Cars Can Lose 38% Weight, Get 23% Better MPG at Only 3% Cost Increase

Weight is without a doubt the enemy of efficiency. Once, all that extra heft was considered a safety feature, but with new technologies that make cars safer even at lighter weights, now it is considered more of a hindrance than anything. Yet, despite space age materials and new construction methods, most cars still weigh well over 3000 pounds. This has put automakers in an uphill battle, where they have to move increasingly heavier cars with smaller engines, while still maintaining some sort of “fun” factor while driving.

But a recent study by Lotus suggests that mainstream automakers could achieve a 38% reduction in the mass of the car (not including the drivetrain) — and thereby increase fuel efficiency 23% — yet only increase costs associated with the extra manufacturing by a scant 3%.

Lotus has always been in the business of making their cars as light as possible. This is why Lotus vehicles are often described as “driver’s cars” because they handle so spectacularly. Lotus decided to apply their methodology to more mainstream vehicles though, like the Toyota Venza crossover. Lotus disassembled the Venza (which when equipped with all-wheel drive has a 4,000 pound curb weight) and tried to re-imagine it as a lighter vehicle. Figure the drive train weighs in at 700 pounds, that means they could have shaved off over 1,000 pounds from the Venza, which would lead to much better fuel economy.

In order to lose all that weight, Lotus employed “mass reduction technology,” like efficient design, component integration, construction and material selection. Does that mean we will all be driving carbon fiber cars by 2020? Not likely. I do expect car parts to integrate more though, and for manufacturers to employ careful design to minimize weight and maximize aerodynamics. The most glaring part of this study though is it would cost automakers just 3% more to make these reductions. I wonder how safety would hold up?

Source: Green Car Advisor


Christopher DeMorro

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or else, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.