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Why there’s nothing lightweight about lightweighting

Why there’s nothing lightweight about lightweighting

It’s no secret that automotive companies are coming under increasing pressure from all directions to meet stringent emissions targets.

Only last month (October), the IPCC issued a special report, warning that CO2 emissions must be completely stopped in order to avoid dangerous climate disruption.

And while the UK may have the target of reducing 80% of emissions by 2050, bringing them back down to 1990 levels, experts say greater emissions cuts are needed right across the board, from planes to industry, and from heating to cars.

The targets will have come as no surprise to automotive manufacturers, but this doesn’t make them any easier to achieve. Unfortunately, reducing vehicle emissions is a major issue that can’t be solved overnight.

But today’s challenges can be used to reinvent the future of automotive manufacturing for the good of the environment and to the advantage of the sector as a whole

Additive manufacturing, cyber-human technology, artificial intelligence and autonomy are just some of the many examples of the technology of today that’s enhancing and redefining the future of vehicle design.

And so too is lightweighting, which underpins almost everything that today’s forward-thinking automotive manufacturers are trying to achieve (emissions targets included). We’re among those manufacturers and have been machining lightweight aluminium components for decades.

While the use of lightweighting materials has always historically been high within the world of aviation, it’s envisaged that automotive will massively increase its lightweight share from 30 to 70% by 2030 (McKinsey & Company). And we can vouch for this – during the time we’ve been producing lightweight components, such as BIW, cylinder heads and blocks, momentum for lightweighting has really gathered pace.

Around 30% of our business is currently dedicated to lightweighting, machining structural BIW components and it’s a figure that we can see continuing to steadily increase, as the drive to phase out traditional combustion engine vehicles gathers momentum, alongside the global push to drive down CO2 emissions.

Weight is undoubtedly a major factor in future automotive design

Put simply, lighter vehicles mean significantly less CO2 emissions. On average, lightweight components tend to be around 2.5 times lighter than their counterparts, with each 100kg of mass reduction reportedly saving 8g/km of CO2.

There are major emissions, improved fuel economy and enhanced vehicle performance-handling opportunities up for grabs right across the board, particularly in relation to the current electric vehicle revolution. Earlier this month (November), Swedish electric car-maker, Uniti, announced plans to establish a pilot production plant for its Uniti One electric car at Silverstone Park. At the time of making the announcement, Uniti’s CEO cited the UK’s focus on lightweighting, among other things, as being the ideal model for global electric car production.

While the journey to cutting emissions isn’t going to be a particularly smooth or short ride, the future is looking a whole lot brighter, not to mention, significantly lighter – and it’s all thanks to lightweighting, a process we’re proud to say we’re one of the original pioneers of.