As automobile manufacturers and operators look for ways to improve fuel economy and freight efficiency, lightweighting tops the list.
Investing in lightweighting is an attractive and economical alternative to adding new equipment, potentially saving fleets nearly $1 million over five years, according to a recent “Confidence Report on Lightweighting” by Trucking Efficiency, an initiative of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and the Carbon War Room (CWR) that aims to double the efficiency of the North American trucking fleet.
“When lightweighting is looked at not only in terms of better fuel economy but also [in terms of] improved freight efficiency, it makes sense in a wide variety of applications,” says Mike Roeth, operation lead at Trucking Efficiency.
One technology with a proven track record of helping original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) achieve lightweighting goals in vehicles of all types is aluminum, the study says. Research conducted by Ricardo Consulting Engineers has shown that an “aluminum-intensive” Class 8 commercial tractor-trailer can reduce vehicle weight by 3,300 pounds. For every 10 percent of weight reduction, up to a 5.5 percent improvement in fuel economy is possible, according to the report. The study also found that substituting the nation’s fleet of Class 8 tractor-trailers with aluminum-intensive models would save 9.3 million tons of carbon dioxide annually.
“Aluminum is well-positioned to help move the nation’s freight more efficiently and effectively by providing lightweight solutions in a variety of applications across the heavy- and medium-duty truck markets,” says Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association, Arlington, Virginia. “With the pending proposal from EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) to tighten the emissions profile of the heavy-duty truck and trailer market, this report shows how lightweighting with aluminum can be part of the fuel-and-freight-efficiency solution.”
The need to trim vehicle weight stems from a variety of factors, the study identifies. Emissions regulations, fuel economy features and driver amenities all have added an average of 1,000 pounds to the average tractor over the past decade. As expectations of more pallets per trailer and denser freight, fuel costs and number of weight restrictions rise, lightweighting becomes an increasingly attractive solution, according to the report.
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