New passenger car registrations in Europe in 2010 down 5.5% from 2009
Improved measurements of sun to advance understanding of climate change

Ford focused on lightweighting as a major enabling technology for low-emission, fuel-efficient vehicles from ICEs to EVs

Ford is focused on lightweighting as a key enabling technology for lowering fuel consumption in combustion-engined vehicles (ICE) and for extending the range—and the size—of battery electric vehicles (EVs).

Ford made a splash at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit with the introduction of 10 C-segment cars, including a new hybrid and plug-in hybrid based on the C-MAX (earlier post)—this following on the roll-out the prior week of the Ford Focus Electric (earlier post). The company is also running its largest display ever at NAIAS, featuring feature a broad spectrum of new products including the all-new Ford Focus, Ford Explorer, Mustang Boss 302, Ford C-MAX multi-activity vehicle and Ford F-150 with four all-new powertrains. A fundamental theme is fuel efficiency for everyone; key to delivering on that is lightweighting.

At a media dinner with other Ford executives, including Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr.; Sue Cischke, Group Vice President, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering; and Sharif Marakby, Director of Electrification Programs and Engineering, Barb Samardzich, Ford’s Vice President, Global Product Programs, said that “the real enabler [for lower fuel consumption] you are going to see coming in the future is weight reduction.”

The more weight we can take out of our vehicles though use of alternative materials, and other lightweighting strategies that we have, that enables us to further downsize the engine—which is the biggest lever you can pull in the vehicle. Taking the displacement down gets you on a percentage basis the best fuel economy value versus other technologies. We’re talking a lot of weight reduction—500-700 lbs [227-318 kg] out of the vehicle, but still enabling the customer to have the package they are accustomed to in the particular vehicle that they purchased. Once you take the weight out, you take the engine down and get substantial deltas in fuel economy.

As new materials and new opportunities arise to take the weight further and further down, the engine team is ready to keep dropping the displacement. Then, there is no trade-off for the customer because they are still getting great performance...We’re certainly not close to the limits on that. I think we have just started as an industry down that serious weight reduction path, and I think that is the next big change that we will see and that will enable the engines to come down also.

—Barb Samardzich

As one current example, the 2011 Ford Explorer (3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6 engine standard)—which won the North American Truck of the Year award at NAIAS—uses more lightweight materials including an aluminum hood, engine and wheels to achieve 20% better fuel economy over the previous model, earning an estimated EPA rating of 17 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. Explorer will soon be available with an advanced 2.0-liter EcoBoost I-4, expected to deliver 30% better fuel economy than the 2010 model.

Samardzich said that in its exploration of different material approaches to lightweighting, Ford models different scenarios in a Monte Carlo type simulation to optimize different combinations—such as an aluminum-intensive vehicle, or carbon fiber, or a combination of those along with high-strength steels that can be made much thinner than some of the current steels—to balance the cost and the performance aspects. As an example, increased weight because of the use of high-strength steel will push the engine up in displacement, while going all the way to carbon fiber or all-aluminum—i.e., higher cost, but lighter weight body materials—allows the engine size to drop, saving money on that side of the business.

[Light weighting] is definitely not going to cost the same as vehicles today. There is going to be some cost added, but there are ways to do it to optimize the net cost we add in given all the different alternatives we look at.

—Barb Samardzich

Marakby noted that you can offset some of the cost of taking weight out even on the electrification side, saying that taking 500-700 pounds out of car can result in a much smaller and lower weight battery pack (i.e., lower cost), or a longer range for the same size (but not weight) vehicle, or support for a larger vehicle size. Although Ford’s currently announced plug-in passenger vehicles are built on the C platform, the company does not see a size limit to battery electric vehicles as some of its competition has expressed.

We’re not capped at the C segment. What affects how you do the electrification powertrain is the weight of the vehicle. The improvement in energy density, which means you can put smaller batteries in spaces, makes it more and more viable for larger vehicles. I think we can head in that direction. I don’t see a limit in the vehicles. Weight is the biggest enemy of electrification. It’s not the size [of the vehicle], it’s the weight.

—Sharif Marakby

Given the potential pragmatic aspects of electrification (e.g., the re-fueling infrastructure—the grid—although requiring an upgrade, is basically in place) and the enabling potential of improving batteries and lightweighting, Ford is somewhat less inclined to view hydrogen fuel cell vehicles as a critical component, although the company is continuing to invest in and develop the technology and staunchly maintains the “no silver bullet” (no one technology solution will meet all needs) stance.

We have a team that continues to work on hydrogen fuel cells, building prototypes, and we have our collaboration with Daimler up in Vancouver, but I think when we compare that to electrification and batteries, they are clearly much faster and more practical solutions that we are seeing on electrification. The investment by companies and governments in electrification has just been amazing...three years ago I never would have thought that things would be where they are today. Hydrogen is farther out.

—Sharif Marakby

We continue to invest in hydrogen and we had not only the fuel cell car, but we had internal combustion hydrogen as well. But it seems to me a hydrogen fuel cell would be a great thing to power a power station to create the electricity to power our vehicles. I do think [battery] electrification makes a lot of sense for us. Hydrogen is tough to store, to transport, and yeah you can get it from renewables in a lab, but most hydrogen today is petrochemically derived, and if that is the case, why? Why would you do that? But a stationary fuel cell to power a power plant, sure. Then you start to have an interesting equation.

—Bill Ford Jr.

Driving Green Technologies. Achieving substantive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector will require combined action in technology, policy and consumer behavior according to a number of studies, one of the more recent being the just-released Pew study. (Earlier post.)

Accordingly, Ford has been upping its activity within the policy arena, as well as trying a broader consumer outreach via newer technologies such as social media. As one example of the latter, Ford hosted a “Driving Green Technologies” event at NAIAS at which it hosted a number of US and international bloggers and online journalists to explore different technology and policy aspects of sustainability. (GCC attended the Driving Green Technologies event as a guest of Ford. We’ll report on that and Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr.’s current thinking on sustainability, technology, consumers and policy in a subsequent post.)



Finally, one of the Big-3 may have seen the light and may produce lighter vehicles. It is an intelligent way to reduce the energy required to move the vehicle. Why use a 4000+ lbs vehicle to move one person around? The technologies required to make lighter vehicles are all there. Moulded plastic, re-enforced with wood derived cristaline cellulose powder, could replace steel panels. Aluminium alloy frames could replace steel frames etc.

Future EVs must weight much less than current ICE vehicles.


The original Model T: 1200 lb. - 15 million sold.
The original VW bug: 1700 lb. - 20 million sold.
The Cooper Mini: 1400 lb. - 5 million sold.

With over forty years of advances in engines and materials since the 1960's moon landings, should having added 1000-2,000 lb. to car weights and then hoping to lose 500-700 lbs impress consumers?

Account Deleted

What I find most interesting here is how Ford’s top executives now clearly say they do not believe in hydrogen as an auto fuel. This is the first time I have seen such a frank rejection of hydrogen among top executives for any of the global automakers.

I have also noticed that those automakers that started to make some serious development effort on battery EVs and range extended EVs at around 2008 (including GM, Ford, Nissan, Renault, BMW and Mercedes Benz) those automakers have accelerated and expanded their efforts in 2010. It is as if they have discovered that EVs are not only doable it is also fairly easy to make fast progress in the development of their motors, power electronics, batteries and accessories, such as, heat pumps, servo steering and braking systems.

In ten years from now we may very well look back at what happened from 1995 to 2020 and conclude that the entire global auto industry wasted some 20 years of development resources for hydrogen vehicles from 1995 to 2015 only to discover that pure battery EVs and ICE range extended EVs took the entire market for low to zero emission vehicles because they were less expensive to produce than fuel cell vehicles and because they got supported by an all inclusive fast charging/battery swapping infrastructure by 2020.


I have no idea why cars are 1,000-2,000lbs heavier than they were 30 years ago, and I share kelly's frustration. I'm unimpressed that they are going to make consumers pay for weight reduction. They already made us pay to make the car heavier.

Imo, it's time for specialty vehicles. No reason to pay $2,000 for an SUV that weighs 1,000lbs less and gets 2mpg extra. That kind of vehicle only lines the corporate coffers with gold. If people need to reduce fuel consumption, buy two small cheap cars for family use, and keep the SUV in the garage for group trips and weekends.


Ever had to lift a base luxury model leatherseat with 4 electric motors from your average middle class family saloon?
I can tell you It's a result of some fantastic advances in tyre construction that they dont go -pop- under the strain.
But If Mr and Mrs Average consumer , and little Jonny are weighing in at 2X my generation, I can sympathise that supersize wheelchairs, cars clothes, shoes and lifting cranes are as much a necessity to life as a couple of slabs of soft drink (for energy)

That cars weigh heavy with all the you beaut you need it distractions and gadjets to allow us to expand our supersize lives into the petrol bowser or EV, that can barely do around the block twice without stopping fo a breather. Should come as no suprise.

I rather like the Lotus Auminum/cabon composite 1 liter and a bit capacity road rockets that eat the heavyweight sports tanks for breakfast in a race and do it all will sipping quietly on an occasional martini of fuel.

Do you too think Ford should go back to the model A/T/ to learn some facts about basics?


How about the 926 lb. Prius 1/X driving around three years ago, or even a fat 1500 lb. 'super sized' one being marketed..


Cars are 1-2000 lbs heavier than they were 30 years ago because they are bigger, faster, safer, don't rattle and don't break down - and fuel was cheap. They also have far better road holding and braking, and loads of electric gadgets.

Also, as engines got better, this was used to keep the fuel consumption going off the scale.

Now we are getting serious about fuel economy, the engineers can start to get the weight out of the cars.

This is an all-way bet as you get the benefits irrespective of what engine technology you use (but especially energy limited electrical power).

It seems like a no-brainer: once the big companies get serious about weight saving you will see the pounds come off (in 3-5 years).

p.s. I wouldn't like to have a crash in either a Model-T, old mini or VW Bug.


Let's not forget the BIGGER is BETTER delusion culture that the Big-3 PR used on us during the last 100 years. The result is that the majority believed them and bought poor quality steel monsters every two or three years. Unemployed people are still buying 5000+ lbs 4 x4 to impress the neighbors and friends. Pure acquired idiotic behavior.

The junk-fast food industry is doing the same thing to our children. Many of them also believe that Bigger is Better, right up to 400+ lbs.

The car and fast food industries know that the majority of us are easy preys. People react differently in many other countries.

Bob Wallace

Let's see...

Model T. No starter, no fuel pump, no heater, no AC, no roll up windows, no windshield wipers, no adjustable seats, no crash cage, no air bags, flimsy bumpers, vastly underpowered (small, light motor).

Early Bug. No AC, no crash cage, flimsy bumpers, vastly underpowered (small, light motor), no air bags, no cooling system.

That's what I recall off-hand....

Bob Wallace

This is a very major articled. It shows that the automobile industry has shifted gears and is headed in a direction which will extend the life of the oil we have left as well as ease us into electricity as a fuel.

IMO Ford is taking a very smart path by running parallel assembly lines for its fuel and EV models. No reason to make separate windshields and doors for differently fueled vehicles. Running parallel lines means that they can easily adjust power systems as demand requires. It's going to put them in a very good position to bring large numbers of EVs to the market once we build inter-city charge stations and demand takes off.


The idea that someone over the age of about 12, would actually believe auto makers did not (and do not) FULLY understand that less weight can provide better mpg is surreal.

Do you think they have not done weight/cost tradeoffs for hundreds of parts each year for at least the last 30 years?

If you have no idea why cars are 1,000-2,000lbs heavier than they were 30 years ago, you probably think carbon composite is what they use in pencils.

They are not going to make consumers pay for weight reduction. -
They will determine how much they can spend on light weight materials and still keep the price in line; and HOPE consumers will not just buy the cheaper, heavier competition.
Life is tough; It's even tougher if you don't work for the government.

It is always a good time for specialty vehicles, for those with more money than sense.

Lotus did, and does, offer a variety of super-light, very fast car models, but contrary to what you hear, they rarely outperform an American sedan - rarely, because they are very rare; they haven’t sold many – no market. A bit like the EV1. Every car maker in the whole world does not sell such cars in any quantity.
And ALL of them believe that mass producing such cars is futile, all of them.

You really think Ford should go back to the model A/T/ to learn some facts about basics? Somebody should, not Ford, they are almost a century beyond that.

How about the aluminum, 1850 lb. Insight 1 that Honda killed, or the 2890 lb Prius driving around now; someone should tell them that if they used carbon composite etc, they would weigh much less and these people here would pay the $180k they would cost ($100k, if made in volume).

Once the big companies get serious about talking about weight saving you will hear a lot more talk about weight saving.

Let's not forget the BIGGER delusion that more people would fit in a Suburban than a Corolla.
The result is that many here believe they were brainwashed – I’m not sure they are not right, but I wasn’t.

I think this explains their desire to pay higher taxes.

The junk-fast food industry does not sell big cars.

Yes, push affordable weight reduction and use it in parallel on ICE and EV models.

Bob Wallace

Toppa - there's a great big fat thumb on the scale.

We've burned up the cheap oil. It is gone.

Consumers are not going to buy a $15k car if it costs major money to fill up. We've seen that in past times of high fuel costs. In 2008 large car/truck sales fell flat and hybrids sold at a premium. Large SUVs and trucks were parked along the roadside for sale at giveaway prices.

Previous price spikes were more or less artificial. This one is for real. Just look how remote/deep we're having to go to find oil to pump and look at the poor quality sludge we're putting through our refineries.


Actually, I doubt that families buy Suburban's as opposed to Sienna's because of their slightly bigger seating capacity. (Besides most families can't fill either car and even they could, these cars are still mostly driven around with one occupant.)

In any case: Car companies could be supported in their weight reduction efforts, if income taxes where reduced in favor of healthy gas taxes...



I just looked up the weight of the Toyota Aygo. It is 775 kg, that is 1700 lbs, or the same as the VW bug or 300 lbs more than the Mini Cooper. Then compare interior space, safety, performance, luxury, reliability, etc.

I don't think there is any reason to slam the auto industry for consumer's preference for large vehicles. If you compare vehicles of the same size, there has not been that much increase in weight over the years.


Typical 'Big 3' gas mileage remained(s) 20 something mpg for a hundred years, burned away most accessible(cheap) oil, polluted our cities, and gets defended?

Concern about our auto safety? How much does a seatbelt weigh, an air bag? Yet these, like CAFE MPG levels, were fought by US automakers spending $billions and the implementation stalled for decades.

The 926 lb. 2008 Toyota 1/X example I cited gets 100 mpg and meets US safety standards. 1980's Honda Civics got over forty mpg. Yet decades of 4,000 lb. 15 mpg tanks normally moving under 400 lbs are being defended as typical, highly efficient, modern individual transportation in these comments.

If electronics stalled/refused/generated new technology like US automakers, we'd still be marketed "the latest 8 track players" - fifty years later.

Apparently, if sufficiently marketed, many would still stand in line for those 'newest' models.


We are burning and importing too much oil, that’s for sure.

But not because auto makers have not heard of aluminum, or CC or titanium.

Actually, I doubt that families buy Suburban's as opposed to Sienna's because they weigh more or they were brainwashed.

Or because GM and Ford are forcing them to buy big cars.

Or because Honda and Toyota and VW and Fiat are forcing them to buy big cars.

NO. They chose big cars - freely.

Why? Well, anyone that thinks none of the auto makers have heard of cost/weight tradeoffs for mpg will not have the answer.

The LOW point of light truck sales was about 46% and they are now back above 50%; I fear that the next gas crisis will result in less corrective action than the last (if that’s even possible).


I suspect that the battery EV market will be a major contributor to progress in the lightweighting field, for the simple reason that while a heavy car with a 25 kWh battery might get a 100 mile range, the lightweighted version might get 140 miles range.

The customer would likely pay a reasonable premium for the extra range, and it may be cheaper to do this by lightweighting than by adding extra battery capacity.


In ancient times some people liked to sit on tall horses and nowadays the same sort of people may like to sit in tall, big cars. The ads which tell them that they can tow big boats (which they don't own) up high mountains on dirt roads (which they don't live nearby) does not brainwash but certainly help (otherwise these ads wouldn't exist).

Regardless, one thing is certain: Americans wouldn't buy big SUV's and pick-up trucks in large numbers if they had to deal with a reasonable gas tax.


"NO. They chose big cars - freely."

Bigger doesn't have to mean heavier. The 2011 Elantra weighs 2700 lb. and has a more interior(mid-size) space than a 3300 lb Cruze compact at a lower price and 40 mpg.

"I fear that the next gas crisis will result in less corrective action than the last (if that’s even possible)." Disagree.

It's been about 2.5 years since 2008 $4/gal. gas. Instead of historically dropping alternate energy investment after OPEC sets a year+ of cheaper gas, SERIOUS alternate energy investment and research continues. Electric vehicles are finally openly sold and even being praised.

The problem is, even the blind knew this serious oil replacement effort should have been ongoing ever since OPEC proved they could jack gas prices by a factor of three or more ever since their 1973 oil embargo.

Instead, those firms claiming to serve the transportation needs of their customers crushed alternatives(particularly viable EVs, battery patents, light rail, ..) and promoted multi-ton teen mileage SUVs instead.

Some say such leadership merits prison terms and pension forfeitures, besides any market bankruptcies. Thirty or more years seems a long time to have accidentally harmed the public interest.


Do better is possible. The new, large enough, Sonata weights less and does 50 mpg. The new Elantra 2012 will even do better.

All manufacturers can build lighter 5 passenger cars that can do 60+ mpg.

All technologies and materials required there already.

We have been had long enough.

Let us be more selective in what we buy.


Sonata weights less and does 50 mpg

Maybe it gets 50 mpg at 50 mph on the highway, but who wants to do that? Is it even rated at 40 mpg EPA highway yet? Better to compare using EPA ratings IMHO...


Certainly lightweighting is a goal to strive for, but why no mention of improved aerodynamics? At steady speed long range driving it has a larger influence than weight, and building a slippery shape takes no special materials and has no added cost.


While we at this reasonably thorough teardown,

Aerodynamics: Sadly often results in either very flat glass that adds enormously to the heat uptake/ loss depending on climate. We wind the windows up to get the air drag savings and end upn with as quoted yesterday by the Taxi (Toyota tarago Wheel chair access van)

"I get 600 k per tank, Always drive with strong aircon, and get 280KLms,"

Thats an easy 33% fuel penalty in city driving.
~ > $ 20.00 Au per shift.

It has been well documented that high pressure intake low pressure outlets work fine for radiaters for engine cooling. Why dont the 'know it alls' at the big 3 big 3- 10 Auto makers give a rats?

If the glass could be positioned to reduce heat gain and loss, even at some small CD loss, we could reduce some of that ~30% aircon (junk machine technology) losses.

But that would mean staying with and evolving incremental changes to an enigmatic unfashionable -but entirely practical lifesaving, nation saving concept.

Now that just wouldn't do.

The car makers are more comfortable with biannual model releases, high cost of spare parts inventory, some new fashioned trinket to flog to the usual rich idle minded "zombie like " customers that seem to appear in droves after rain.

Hey why hold back and apologise for the pathetic state of consumer led destruction that most of the planets inhabitants are experiencing?
Lets not forget it affects people as well.


Who really cares about EPA ratings. We all know that they will change with the most generous lobbies request. EPA could design standards (at lobbies request) that would make a 6000+ lbs 4 x 4 truck use less gas than a Prius III.

EU standards are probably the most accurate.


The US should thank Europe and Japan and CAFE.
As Kelly pointed out, when gas hit $4/gal everyone cared about gas mileage.
Once the price dropped again, everyone in the US forgot about it.
This did not happen in Europe where there was already a load of Tax on fuel - we went from expensive to very expensive.
Then the EU made <130 gms CO2 a fleet wide limit.
The taxes and CO2 limit created a permanent push for more efficient cars that was(is) not dependent on the price of oil. (CAFE also does this, but to a lesser extent).
Now the car manufacturers had a clear, permanent goal: get CO2, (and hence fuel consumption) down.
And they did (and are doing) it.
All the big 3 have links to the European manufacturers (Ford, Opel and Fiat, for instance) and hence they can surf behind the ideas coming out of Europe.
Better again (as in the case with Ford, when they start contributing ideas back from the US to Europe.

Anyway, lets see where they are when oil hits $147 this time. (Which it will, due to demand from China and India).

The comments to this entry are closed.