TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (Aug. 7, 2012)—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 auto engineers contacted for an annual survey for DuPont and the magazine WardsAuto said the 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 fuel economy standards nearly double the ratings in 2010, while European governments are tightening requirements for carbon dioxide emissions.
"These aggressive goals require urgent development and adoption of higher efficiency technologies," said Chris Murphy, DuPont's global auto industry director. "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."
In addition to lighter cars and trucks and an improved traditional engine, the engineers said they expect to see big changes in vehicle electrification and the further development of diesel engines in North America.
The engineers also said they expect engine changes, battery storage levels, improvements to the alternate fuel infrastructure and lightweight materials will be the four biggest technology focuses during that same period.
While much of the new technology in the auto industry 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 for five or 10 years to see new technology move across platforms, but that (timing) has reduced significantly," he said.