Lotus Helps Develop Future Weight-Loss Plan for Production Cars

If there is one automaker in the world that knows lightweight cars, it's Lotus. With knowledge in hand, the British marque was recently called upon to help develop an extensive weight-shedding plan that could feasibly be adapted within the rest of the auto industry. The outcome was a net weight savings of around 40 percent with just a marginal increase in cost.

Lotus knows that compact two-seaters offer little utility to the average, practicality-seeking family but its approach to vehicle engineering yields unquestioned value to the rest of the market. The renowned sports-car brand lent its weight-saving expertise and philosophy to the International Council on Clean Transportation, which is similarly intent on shedding vehicle weight through the use of lightweight materials and more efficient designs. Weight reduction is a key element in improving fuel economy and reducing emissions.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">To start, the ICCT study used a Toyota Venza as its benchmark vehicle and completely tore it down to assess where weight savings could come into play. The revised, lightened Venzas could not compromise dimensions, volumes, structural integrity, or any other qualities that impact the driver and passengers and are intended to be production ready for 2020. After extensive revisions to vehicle systems such as the body, closures/fenders, bumpers, and interior, the end result was a Venza that weighs 38-percent less but at a slight three-percent increase in component costs. The use of aluminum, magnesium, plastic, and other composite materials increased substantially to curb the overall weight figure, which tips the scales at 3760 pounds for the untouched four-cylinder, front-wheel-drive model.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Here is how the weight savings broke down:

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Benchmark Toyota Venza (3760 pounds total) vs. 2020 Toyota Venza

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Body (844 pounds) -- 42-percent reduction, 35-percent cost increase

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Closures/Fenders (315 pounds) -- 41-percent reduction, 24-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Bumpers (40 pounds) -- 11-percent reduction, 3-percent cost increase

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 36-percent reduction, 4-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Interior (556 pounds) -- 39-percent reduction, 4-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Suspension/Chassis (836 pounds) -- 43-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Miscellaneous (66 pounds) -- 24-percent reduction, 1-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">In addition to the 2020 Venza, a second strategy was developed for the nearer 2017 model year. This strategy did not incorporate next-generation techniques like the 2020 model and therefore only saved 21-percent in the weight department. However, the 2017 Venza actually ended up costing two-percent less than the benchmark vehicle.

Benchmark Toyota Venza (3760 pounds total) vs. 2017 Toyota Venza

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Body (844 pounds) -- 15-percent reduction, 2-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Closures/Fenders (315 pounds) -- 25-percent reduction, 2-percent cost increase

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Bumpers (40 pounds) -- 11-percent reduction, 3-percent cost increase

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Interior (556 pounds) -- 27-percent reduction, 3-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Suspension/Chassis (836 pounds) -- 26-percent reduction, no cost change

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Miscellaneous (66 pounds) -- 24-percent reduction, 1-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Thermal, lighting, and glazing systems remain unchanged, meaning windows and air-conditioning systems were not touched. Combined, these systems weigh 139 pounds. The full powertrain package was also excluded, which weighs in at 904 pounds.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Of course, learning about the weight savings is of little use without knowing how much fuel you save. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a total reduction of 33 percent results in a 23-percent reduction in fuel consumption, so the 2020 Venza stands to improve well over its base EPA figures of 21 city/29 highway mpg.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">The full 308-page report can be found in PDF form here.

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Source: Lotus

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

<;p class="MsoNoSpacing" target="_blank">Electrical (52 pounds) -- 29-percent reduction, 5-percent cost reduction

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