The automobile industry has been constantly pushing towards enhancing automobile features to meet increasing mileage and emission requirements. This is being approached through the use of innovative materials and manufacturing processes. The major approaches towards achieving these objectives include reducing aspects such as aerodynamic drag, driveline and transmission losses, tire rolling resistance, and vehicle weight. Among these, reducing vehicle weight seems to be the most cost-effective. OEMs are now gearing up towards light-weighting a vehicle in order to increase performance and efficiency while decreasing emissions and maintaining safety and comfort. Global efforts towards CO2 reduction and fuel optimization have given impetus to the current concept of Lightweight Vehicles.
For an average automobile, the weight contributed by individual components such as chassis, powertrain, body and other exterior components is approximately 80% of the total weight. Hence, most of the automakers and OEMs are focusing on such components to achieve overall weight reduction. Studies are being conducted to identify materials that can solve the critical issue of component weight. According to information sources, approximately 10% reduction of vehicle weight contributes to 6-8 % reduction in fuel consumption and 5-6% in emission volume reduction. Though not a huge number, in the growing competitive market, these figures can hugely add to the OEM’s market promotions.
While Powertrain electrification has already helped achieve vehicle weight reduction by partially or totally eliminating ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) practical challenges such as meeting long-range, efficiency and safety still exist. For a BEV (Battery operated Electric Vehicle), the regular lithium-ion, lead–acid, nickel–metal hydride batteries that act as primary sources of energy will contribute to significant vehicle weight and can be considered as a target component for further study on weight reduction. Manufacturers are looking at alternate materials for long-range batteries. Aluminum- and zinc-air batteries are cheaper, lighter and safer than conventional batteries.
While discussions on improvements in current battery design and material compositions have been in progress, researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have come up with an innovative concept of “structural battery” using carbon fiber, which means a vehicle’s structure itself works as a battery if proper design parameters are achieved. The team is currently experimenting with ways to increase the composite thickness in order to overcome the mechanical challenges while boosting total energy storage capacity. The other innovations that are happening in the battery area are listed below:
Lightweight cables 輕質電纜
The wiring technology inside an automobile is designed to withstand higher temperatures and deliver large currents to installed equipment. Currently the gross weight of electrical wiring in a conventional car is around 30Kg out of which 30% can be reduced using weight saving electric wires. Few weight reducing cables developed recently are:
· Aluminum alloy automotive wire
· Copper clad aluminum wire (CA) – Battery cables (Currently needed in EV and HEV vehicles)
· High strength wire cable – Signal lines (1/4th cross section to that of a conventional cable)
- 銅包鋁線（CA）- 電池線（目前EV和HEV車輛需要）
- 高強度線纜 - 信號線（截面是常規電纜的四分之一）
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