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Modern Vehicle Lightweighting: A Review on Safety of Reduced Weight Vehicles

This report prepared for Consumer Reports reviews the crash performance of two lightweight production vehicles and includes peer-reviewed government funded studies that document the safety of reduced weight vehicles. It also reviews the fundamental engineering principles used to create safe vehicles and the materials used to meet safety requirements in production vehicles. It concludes that lightweight materials can be deployed in such a way that they can achieve significant weight reduction with comparable or even improved vehicle safety performance, and minimal increases in vehicle production costs.

The higher cost of lighter weight materials has been found to be partially offset by other savings enabled by the lower vehicle weight such as smaller engines, smaller brakes, and a lighter suspension, and manufacturing efficiencies including reducing the number of parts which can reduce tooling and assembly costs. The total incremental costs of lightweighting has been shown in real world production and modeling studies to only increase the total vehicle costs on the order of 1 to 3%. This allows lightweight vehicles to remain highly competitive in the marketplace as evidenced by the lightweight Ford F-150, which is the bestselling vehicle in the US while shedding over 700 lbs. and achieving the highest possible safety ratings.