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Author: admin, 20.03.2014
The recent unveiling of a revolutionary new micro car codenamed the T25 by Gordon Murray Design is generating a lot of interest. Weight reduction is sought in three different ways, namely, by the use of light weight materials, by optimizing the design of different components and system layouts, or by innovations in manufacturing process.
Powertrain, chassis and exterior system account for more than 50 per cent of the total weight of the car.
The realization of weight reduction in Powertrain is all about optimization – for example engine downsizing with turbo charging. Weight reduction in chassis and exteriors are mainly achieved by using light weight materials like aluminium, magnesium, titanium and plastics, used in a cost-effective manner. There is a clear trend of use of alternative light weight materials to become a key element in the design of future cars, as it offers a 5 per cent reduction in the total weight of the car. Nissan as a promising green initiative has set a strict deadline to reduce average weight of its vehicle by 15 per cent over a period of seven years, compared to its 2005 line-up. On the same lines, the other Japanese manufacturer, Toyota, has also set a goal to reduce 10 per cent of weight on its mid-size vehicles. General Motors (GM), once known for its famous GM diet for its employees, is actively exploring the use of light-weight materials to reduce the vehicle weight. Sustainability and light weight are the current buzz words in the automotive world to create a green future. With the manufacturers bracing up to create greener vehicles, the million dollar question is about affordability and the trade off between weight and the cost. The current environmental issues have not spared the automotive industry as these add pressure on the automakers to manufacture fuel-efficient cars with less CO2 emissions.


Reductions in size and weight on the T25 are achieved though innovative design and the use of ultra light weight materials, which also resulted in its low cost. However, the key challenge is to keep an optimum balance between cost, weight and performance, to comply with regulations as well as satisfy the customers. Engine downsizing of 30 per cent on an average reduces 10 to 15 per cent of the total weight of the engine and reduces 10 to 20 per cent CO2 emissions. Multi-material concept for the Body In White (BIW) is the new trend developed towards the weight reduction. However, the American OEMs, for whom stringent fuel economy standards have just been introduced, will find it more challenging to shift from larger gas guzzlers to fuel sippers and to convince the customers to buy smaller cars.
The 15 per cent cut in weight can yield approximately an average reduction of 10 per cent drop in fuel consumption. As a core weight reduction strategy, Ford has set a target of reducing 113 kg to 340 kg on all its vehicles by 2020, as a part of its target to improve fuel economy by 40 per cent by 2020. In a bid to meet this challenge, OEMs are focussing on research and technology to develop lighter cars. The result is a car which weighs 400 kg less than most small cars, yet feels like one much larger and comfortable to drive.
Reduction in the weight of the Powertrain and vehicle structure can subsequently reduce the weight of the chassis, brakes and gears, resulting in reduction in the weight of the vehicle. The Super Light Car consortium, co-founded by the European Commission consisting of 38 leading organizations is working on muti-material BIW concept with a target of reducing approximately 41 per cent weight of the cars manufactured. Using smaller displacement engines, uni-body applications, light weight application and electric power steering are the key focus areas in future.


With the theory that a lighter vehicles require less energy, OEMs are using weight reduction as a key strategy in developing fuel-efficient vehicles. The manufacturer has various approaches towards weight reduction, such as rethinking the vehicle design, BIW, integration of functions, engine downsizing combined with turbo-chargers and use of various light-weight materials. The use of composites on the fender, window glazing, instrument panel and steering wheel itself contribute to weight reduction of 30 to 50 per cent per part.
At the end of the day, manufacturers have to do some firefighting to balance weight and cost. As an example, a 100 kg weight reduction in a car can yield 2 to 3 per cent increase in fuel economy and 3.5 grams per km emission reduction of CO2. The usage of composites is common in the high end luxury cars like Mercedes and Audis, resulting in higher weight reduction.
The four-seater concept model weighs around 420 kg, which weighs roughly one-third of Prius' kerb weight. While manufacturers are reactive in environmental measures, it is important to become proactive in development of light weight concepts in the future.
Every OEM has set a target to reduce the weight of the vehicles by 10 to 15 per cent by 2015, across their fleet. Although weight reduction at present focuses on the usage of light weight materials and designing at a very affordable cost, it is critical to involve expert engineering to look out for new systems and breakthrough designs.



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