January 18, 2014

"Detroit Auto Show: Automakers push weight loss to promote fuel efficiency."

Yeah, lose some weight so cars don't need to burn so much fuel carrying you around.

No, they're not saying that. (They're just trying to make the vehicles weigh less.) But wouldn't it be funny if they did?


virgil xenophon said...

Of course lighter cars are also FAR more "unsafe at any speed" (to use Ralph Nader's formulation) Even the avg citizen, let alone the guy who got a *D* in HS physics, knows that if one goes off an icy road at ANY speed and hits a culvert head-on one's chances of survival in a 1500lb mainly fiberglass eco-car are FAR less than in a 5,000lb SUV.

John said...

One of the ways they are reducing weight is eliminating the spare tire. Not even a compact spare.

If you buy a new car, make sure you get a spare tire with it.

I made that mistake and regret it. Ford, BMW, Hyundai and others are doing this for a few years now. For the 2015 year I would not be surprised if all makers are doing it.

John Henry

John said...

BTW: No salesman ever told me my new car did not have a spare tire.

I paid my money, signed the papers and was taking delivery when I opened the trunk to make sure the spare, jack etc were there and...


Just a little 12 volt air compressor and a bottle of sealing goop.

I was pissed but it was too late to do anything about it.

John Henry.

Hagar said...

Well, Virgil, would you care to explain the physics of that?

traditionalguy said...

Remember the "compact cars only" spaces painted on the parking decks?

Just make them smaller, and smaller, and smaller like the 600 sq ft small houses touted by small people.

The appeal of the Malthusian Eco-Religion is a slow scorched earth itself.

paul a'barge said...

Lena Dunham was unavailable for commment about weight issues and fuel efficiency.

gadfly said...

Downsizing by limiting consumer vehicle choices does not work for the Corporatist States of America, so automakers have been instructed to reduce weight to attain lower fuel usage and CO2 emmissions. The problem is that the pre-2014 Escalade SUV's at 7400 lbs will now share the road with the new Ford F150 Pickups which will shed 700 lbs to get down to about 4000 lbs. When these vehicles get together, I want to be riding in the Escalade.

paul a'barge said...

@John: I was pissed but it was too late to do anything about it.

Not really.

You have a time period in which you can return the car, no questions asked, for any reason.

Don't be pissed. Get smart(er).

Hagar said...

Commissioner Mulcahy is dead, but his spirit lives!

PB Reader said...

Al Gore was unavailable for comment. He was busy with his 5th meal of the day.

Hagar said...

I got a 4-wheel drive. I can go anywhere and do everything!

John said...


technically you are right, I could have backed out of the sale. For practical reasons it would have been difficult.

And other than the fact that it has no spare, I really do like the car a lot. Hyundai Elantra, 2012 model year.

I just think that for something like a spare tire there is a moral obligation to mention that there isn't one.

OTOH, Caveat Emptor. My assumption that all cars have spare tires is my bad. Never assume.

John Henry

Spiros Pappas said...

Lighter trucks will brake and steer easier. They'll also be cheaper to run. But Virgil Xenophon's attitudes will be an obstacle to these new innovations. Big, lumbering vehicles will be presented to the public as safer. And since a broken bone costs tens of thousands of dollars to heal (our medical system is outrageously expensive), perceptions of safety will likely trump fuel efficiency.

Hagar said...

Back in the day, Commissioner Mulchy of Massachussetts staged a head-on collision between a Cadillac and a VW Beetle and used for an argument that VW Beetles should be banned from American roads.
Some local VW owners then staged a head-on between a Cadillac and a Greyhound bus and said that Cadillacs should be banned.
Last I heard, they were going to stage one between a train and a Greyhound, but I do not know if that ever came off.

I once saw the aftermath of a T-bone between a TR-2 - one of those funny little English sportscars - and an Eldorado that was turning around in the middle of Triple-6 north of Gallup. The TR-2 was somewhat buckled up front, but largely OK. The Caddy was in a V-shape. Both drivers were killed, but the TR-2 guy, not in the car, but on the road some distance up ahead where he landed - this being before seatbelts.

David said...

That, and turning off your engine at every stop whether you want to or not.

Which greatly increases the cost of the starter motor.

Which increases the cost of the car.

Carol said...

You have a time period in which you can return the car, no questions asked, for any reason.

That's not really true, at least not in every state.

AJ Lynch said...

Henry Ford's ghost, which probably never misses the Detroit Auto Show, must be revolted to hear this crap being spewed by the spineless auto bigwigs.

David Davenport said...

To understand this stuff re lighter weight cars, one must understand Newton's three laws.

chuckR said...

Its easier to reduce the weight of a Ford 150 by 700# than accomplishing the same reduction in most people.
At least the ones that I know.

chuckR said...

In addition to Newton's three laws, not a bad idea to look at the salutary effect of tuning crumple zones using collision analysis software like LS-DYNA. Also, metallurgical alchemy like Arcelormittal's automotive boron steel used in the roof pillars have helped a lot.
Built better in the old days? Watch the IIHS 50th anniversary youtube video of a 3600# '59 Chevy Bel Air offset frontal crash into a 3400# '09 Chevy Malibu. Appalling, and not just for the wanton destruction of a perfectly good old Bel Air.

madAsHell said...

Its easier to reduce the weight of a Ford 150 by 700# than accomplishing the same reduction in most people.

Cut food stamps!

Donna B. said...

One thing that some (not all) smaller cars have is more responsive handling.

There's one near collision in which I was almost involved that I'm glad I was driving my Corolla instead of my Avalon. Length is another consideration. It's possible that the added length of the Avalon would have caused the collision to not have been averted even if all else stayed the same.

Physics works in all directions.

danoso said...

Conservation of momentum still applies, that hasn't somehow been invalidated. The driver of the "smart" car will experience a huge change in velocity when colliding with a several ton SUV. He might be protected due to its construction, unfortunately his neck snapped from the near instantaneous change in velocity. But he'll have a nice looking corpse at his wake, so he's got that going for him.

Lonetown said...

Perhaps the EPA estimates posted on the window should include a table for passenger weight?

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

Here's another thing that would be funny. Banning pleasure trips by car, even driven by skinny people, because, it is an unnecessary trip and, carbon footprint.

And, many of your fellow citizens can't afford to do to so - income inequality rubbed in faces.

Isn't fascism wonderful?!

SGT Ted said...

The cutting down vehicle weight to increase fuel mileage isn't anything new. It is how manufacturers have complied with fuel mileage mandates determined by attorneys and not engineers.

It is the reason we have so many beer can cars that collapse when bumped. It is the reason for a lot of needless automobile deaths and serious injuries.

Who cares if you get crushed in an accident? We must please Mother Giaia with human sacrifice, to show her we love her.

Hagar said...

Cars are much heavier now than they were before the safety lobby took hold.

ErnieG said...

I understand that the Smart Car got its name because the focus groups rejected "Dumbass Deathtrap."

David Davenport said...

knows that if one goes off an icy road at ANY speed and hits a culvert head-on one's chances of survival in a 1500lb mainly fiberglass eco-car are FAR less than in a 5,000lb SUV.

A smaller car with energy-absorbing structural cells and effective airbags might be safer.

The 1500 lb car's structure, assuming equal impact velocities, would have less momentum to dissipate.

This is a different situation from a 1500 lb car and a big ass vehicle colliding.

Hagar said...

To start with, 1500# is in Lotus Super-7 territory. I do not think there has been passenger vehicles that light for sale since WWI.

There used to be a lot in the 2500-3000 pound range, and they are now all at least 500# heavier due to side-impact beams in the doors and various body strengthening features, plus, of course, additional content. Better seats with attachments and 7 speakers add weight even if they are from Bose.

However, none of that has anything to do with what happens to you when you hit an immovable object such as a culvert. (Actually, hitting a culvert from the roadway is not all that easy; I presume Virgil really meant a bridge pier or abutment.)
Anyway, in that situation, it will be all about crumple zones and how well you are strapped in. The weight of the vehicle will not be a significant factor.

Weight will have an effect in a collision with another vehicle, but here again it is not "a matter of simple physics" as the jackass from NHTSA used to trumpet over the airwaves. The structural design of the vehicle and the effectiveness of the passenger restraint system is going to have a lot to do with. And of course, whether you actually use the seatbelts.
Then there is the matter of avoiding having an accident to start with, so that the maneuverability of the vehicle comes into play, and, of course, your driving habits and skills as well as paying attention to your driving.

Gerrard787 said...

Ford is taking off over 700lbs from the 2015 F-150 through the widespread use of aluminum. That is an amazing feat for a mainstream vehicle.

Peter said...

Cars really do need to go on a diet.

Today's subcompact cars typically weigh about 2,600 pounds whereas the original VW "beetle" weighed less than 2,000. And the same is true for larger cars- they've all gotten proportionately heavier.

And yes, if a (truck-based) SUV hits a light car the light car will lose. Perhaps that's an argument for
taxing the snot out of the SUV, so as to recover this externality?

For the sad truth is, SUVs are not statistically safer than cars. Although they are surely more dangerous to everyone else.

Isn't an argument not to make cars lighter ultimately an argument for an endless arms race in which cars just keep getting heavier and heavier, resulting in overall poor fuel economy with no net increase in safety?