Fuel Economy & Footprint: What Does it Have to do with Mass Reduction?

This post was taken from Altair Enlighten and was contributed by  , President, Chairman & CEO and Director at Center for Automotive Research (CAR)


CAFE standards for model year 2017 have automakers looking towards lightweight materials to help meet automotive fuel economy benchmarks.

Prior to model year 2011, all manufacturer vehicle fleets needed to meet the same basic fuel economy targets: 27.5 mpg for passenger cars and 23.5 mpg for light trucks.  To meet fuel economy CAFE standards for a particular model year, manufacturers would often offset the sales of less fuel efficient vehicles with smaller fuel efficient vehicles. This has led to the belief that any increase in CAFE requirements would result in the demise of larger vehicles.

Image courtesy of AOL Autos: https://autos.aol.com/article/fuel-economy-standards-survey/

However, what is often overlooked is that starting in model year 2011 each manufacturer’s fleet fuel economy requirement is based on the average vehicle footprint (i.e., track width x wheelbase) for that fleet.  What does that mean?  Essentially, smaller vehicles need to achieve higher fuel economy ratings than their larger cousins to meet the standard.  The figure below provides a snapshot of just a few vehicles of various sizes and how they compare to the CAFE standards established for MY 2017.



As you would expect, the smaller cars do indeed achieve better fuel economy ratings; however, because of the footprint basis for fuel economy those smaller cars must improve just as much as the larger less fuel efficient vehicles.

With the new footprint based fuel economy regulations, automakers will need to find ways to improve fuel efficiency for all vehicles.  For those that promote fuel efficient technologies (such as lightweighting), the future is bright.

More information is available at Center for Automotive Research or learn about CAR’s Coalition for Automotive Lightweighting Materials (CALM).

Dave Mason
Dave Mason

About Dave Mason

David Mason, a veteran Altair executive who joined the company in 1994, is responsible for the automotive vertical in Altair’s Global Markets Team. This team is responsible for business strategy and development along with the sharing of best practices (software and services) both internally and externally in key global markets. Prior to his current position, Mason was the Managing Director of Altair’s United Kingdom office. His experience at Altair includes leadership roles in consulting, software product management, and sales. During his time with Altair he has led project teams in diverse disciplines including the development of vehicle systems, CAE, vehicle build and test projects, test data analysis, and custom software development. A large part of his career has been involved with helping organizations adopt and implement simulation led design processes. Before joining Altair in 1994, Mason worked as a product engineer at General Motors Corporation. He holds master’s degrees from The University of Michigan in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics.