Vehicle weight will be the biggest area of the auto industry facing change in the coming decade, as fuel economy standards and emission requirements strengthen.
More than two-thirds of the 700 automotive engineers contacted for an annual survey by DuPont Co. and WardsAuto magazines said demands for lightweighting will grow by 2025.
More than half of the engineers — 52 percent — said the industry also will face changes in optimizing the internal combustion engine to improve fuel economy.
The U.S. government has called for improvements in corporate average fuel economy standards that nearly double the 2010 ratings, while European governments are tightening requirements for carbon dioxide emissions.
“These aggressive [CAFE] goals require urgent development and adoption of higher-efficiency technologies,” said DuPont global auto industry director Chris Murphy, in an Aug. 7 news release. Survey results were released in conjunction with the Center for Automotive Research's Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
“We're on a steep trajectory to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and reduce CO2 emissions. Getting there requires strong collaboration throughout the globe and across the value chain,” he said.
In addition to lighter cars and trucks and an improved traditional engine, engineers surveyed said they expect to see big changes in vehicle electrification and further development of diesel engines in North America.
The biggest focus will be on engine changes, battery storage levels, improvements to the alternate fuel infrastructure and lightweight materials between now and 2025, the engineers said.
While much of the new technology has been introduced in small-volume niche vehicles, Bill Krueger, vice chairman for the Americas for Nissan Motor Co. Ltd., said successful technology will move faster into the mainstream as the industry looks for ways to meet new requirements.
“In the past, you could wait five or 10 years to see new technology move across platforms, but that [timing] has reduced significantly,” he said.