04 August 2010

Michael Melz: “Reducing weight to achieve better fuel efficiency is the right approach. But it is one among many ways”

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A reduction of 100 kilograms sounds impressive. But if you compare the cars of today with the cars our parents used to drive, something odd emerges

By comparing the weights of latest Volkswagen Golf VI with its predecessor Golf I, built in 1978, the scale shows the difference: Golf I weighs 880 kilograms, Golf VI lets the numbers on the scale rise to 1.44 tons. That makes 660 kilograms more material. At the Technical Inspection Agency TÜV Nord in Wolfsburg, Germany, Michael Melz, line manager of the Institute of Vehicle Technology, examined both cars. They seem to differ not only in weight, but also in size.

It is one thing to reduce the heavy car by 100 kilogram, but how could it be that after five face-lifts and re-designs, the same car has suddenly gained so much weight?
The length of the Golf I is 3,80 metres, while the length of Golf VI is 4,10 metres. As for Golf I we have a very straight-forward structure and there are no real safety measures. In Golf VI the engine bay is quite packed with aggregates. Having a look at the engine cover one cannot see the substructure because of the insulation. But there are a lot more braces to protect the occupants in case of a crash.
The engine cover of Golf I has a substructure that consists only of three bars. There is nothing in between. The same with the doors: the old version consists only of the frame, the closing mechanism and the window regulator, the new one contains crash protection by steel bars and a lot of electronic features.

Do you think that the car body weight reduction might really have an impact on the reduction of fuel emissions?
Reducing the weight to achieve better fuel efficiency is the right approach. But it is one among many ways. Other approaches include reducing rolling resistance or air drag. With modern cars these approaches have already reached their limit. The effort required to improve roll resistance and air drag is too great, it would be inefficient.


 

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