Light duty vehicles are defined as trucks and cars with gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of less than 8,500 lbs. Four major vehicle systems that comprise the majority of the weight of light duty vehicles include chassis and suspension, body structures, engine and transmission, fenders, closures and bumpers. In general, the sets of requirement for heavy duty and light duty applications are the same. However, the performance requirements defined by the specific duty cycles require different approaches to manufacturing and design. The body structures make up to 23% to 28% of vehicle weight and represent an opportunity to reduce the overall weight of the vehicle. The function of the body is to contain the passenger compartment, thus protecting the passengers by providing energy absorption and structural safety in the event of a crash. Currently, passenger compartments comprise high modulus sheet and strength material. The timeline for utilizing lightweight metals compared to carbon fiber composite (CFCs) for the body structures are different because of the cost and maturity of two types of structural materials. Lightweight metals offer short term and moderate-to-substantial weight saving with more mature technology than CFCs, whereas the CFCs offer significant weight saving in the longer term. In general, the technology for lightweight metals is more mature in terms of availability of databases for properties, repairability, manufacturability, understanding and design.
Light weight can impact the energy efficiency of vehicles regardless of power train configuration. In conventional light duty applications, 10% weight reduction can result in 6% to 8% improvement in fuel economy. Light duty, electric powered vehicles weight reduction results in increased vehicle range, which in turn is favorable for the market. In addition, advanced materials applied to propulsion systems increases overall energy efficiency. If the engines could operate at their maximum theoretical potential, their efficiency represents a double improvement in light duty fuel economy. Hence, fuel price assumptions have a large impact on the economic competitiveness of the alternative fuel vehicle systems.
The light duty vehicles market includes on-road fleet, passenger car new fleet, light truck new fleet, passenger car CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standard and light truck CAFE standard. Key vendors operating in this market are Ford, Nissan, Renault, Honda, Tata Motors Ltd., Volkswagen, and Honeywell International Inc.
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