Comprehensive Considerations on Material Selection for Lightweighting Vehicle Bodies Based on Material Costs and Assembly Joining Technologies

Comprehensive Considerations on Material Selection for Lightweighting Vehicle Bodies Based on Material Costs and Assembly Joining Technologies

He (Herman) Tang (Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJMMME.2017100101
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Lightweighting is a trend of new vehicles, driven by government regulations and environmental concerns. A major development effort in the automotive industry is on lightweighting vehicle bodies. This paper discusses the materials, their characteristics, weight reduction potentials, and costs for lightweighting vehicle bodies. The paper exams the joining technologies on their principles, applications for light materials, and influencing factors for choosing a joining process. Based on the review, the paper discusses the development trends for material selection and joining technology applications.
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CAFE Requirements

Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards require improved fuel economy to 54.5 mpg for cars and light-duty trucks in US by 2025 model year. That drives automakers to seek various ways to improve fuel consumption. One main approach is to cut the vehicle weight.

Reducing a vehicle’s mass by 10% can improve fuel economy by 6-8% (DOE, 2015). In addition, for new electric cars, their weight is extremely important to the battery power demand. A 10% reduction in vehicle weight permits nearly a 10% smaller in battery size (Smock, 2010).

A midsize passenger car weights about 3400 lb (1542 kg). Many industrial experts consider a 450 lb (204 kg), or 13%, reduction of vehicle weight is necessary by 2025. The other segments of passage vehicles should have similar targets. To reduce the weight of a vehicle, its body structure is often considered a main target, for a 30% reduction. Powertrain units can be expected be reduced by 25%. Other areas, such as chassis, interior, closures, and glazing, may be targeted for 20, 14, 8, and 3%, respectively.

Environmental Concern

CO2, sometimes called Greenhouse gas (GHG), emission as a main environmental concern is also a direct benefit of weight reduction and fuel economy improvement. Figure 1 shows a clear correlation between the fuel economy and CO2 emission in the last four decades (EPA, 2016).

Figure 1.

EPA report on vehicle fuel economy and CO2 emission


The CO2 emission from vehicle fuel combustion can be calculated by:

where, CO2 emission and gas combusted are in weight, constant 0.87 is due to 87% carbon and 13% hydrogen in gasoline by weight, 44 is molecular weight of CO2, and 12 is molecular weight of carbon. One gallon of gasoline weights about 6.3 lb. Therefore, one-gallon gasoline can produce approximately 20 lb (9.07 kg) CO2 when burned (DOE, 2016).

CO2 generated from the material production should be considered as well. Lifecycle assessment (LCA) is a good tool for material selection. If an LCA includes the material production, the analysis results can be different to minimize the entire CO2 emission. According to the World Steel Association, steel production generates much less GHG, refer to Table 1 (ArcelorMittal, 2014). Using light materials can save vehicle weight and improve fuel economy. However, taking the vehicle mass reduction rate (say up to 50% if using aluminum) into count and the CO2 from material production steel are competitive for CO2 emission reduction.

Table 1.
Greenhouse gas generated from material production
MaterialGHG (kg CO2e/kg)
Aluminum Alloys11.2–12.6
Magnesium Alloys18–45
Carbon Fiber21–23

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