The Challenges of Complying with CAFE Standards


Focus of Upcoming Advanced Lightweight Materials Summit

The Obama Administration’s 54.5 mpg CAFE standards must be met by 2025, but time is ticking away… quickly. Twelve years has never felt shorter.

Weight reduction is one of the most realistic ways to reach this goal. Studies suggest that a 10% decrease in vehicle weight results in a 6.6% increase in fuel efficiency. In fact, according to an ATG report, there is no single cost-effective technology that can accomplish 50+ MPG without significant weight reduction.

OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, material suppliers, universities and research institutions join forces at the Advanced Lightweight Materials Summit August 26-27 in Detroit to discuss the latest lightweight materials solutions. In the hyper-competitive automotive industry, a pound saved is a dollar earned!

Summit speakers will address the following question: What will be the biggest challenge of complying with CAFE standards?

Jon Riley, Vice President Digital Manufacturing, National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) says: The biggest challenge will be the consumer cultural shift the necessary technologies will impose. While there will always be that subset of the car-buying market that goes “Green” because it is the globally conscious thing to do, most will buck at the tradeoffs imposed. A greater percentage of every automaker’s fleet will be gas-electric hybrids, plug-in hybrids, natural gas and hydrogen-fueled cars.

Fleets will change too: smaller cars made of more components fabricated from these advanced (and more expensive) materials will become the norm.

And people will have to get used to new styling driven more by aerodynamics than market research. Those things may or may not be readily embraced.

Paul Krajewski, Engineering Group Manager and Tech Fellow at GM, says: he biggest challenge is the cost / value proposition to the customer. We have methods to achieve the standards, but they require adding cost to the customer. Determining the lowest cost way of achieving the targets and presenting as a valuable option for the customer will be critical.

Nicholas Gianaris, Composite Vehicle Research Center, Michigan State University says:

The automotive industry has responded to CAFE and increase fuel costs since the 1970’s by initially learning how to design vehicles that are aerodynamically efficient, and this was and is the most dramatic area for improvement of fuel efficiency of a vehicle.

At about the same time, powertrains, with improvements through control systems and the use of hybrid and electric propulsion and energy recovery systems, have allowed an equivalent engine displacement to be much more efficient than even a decade ago.

Aerodynamics and powertrain technologies are now approaching saturation, and mass reduction of a vehicle is the last bastion for making dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency. The implementation of advanced steels and cast irons, wrought and cast aluminum, cast magnesium, plastics, and composite materials systems have certainly helped with the lightweighting efforts though feature content and fuel sources tend to add the mass back to the vehicle.

This is certainly a challenge, and another challenge will be the carbon footprint equivalent of any material system used for lightweighting. And lastly, assembling parts and vehicle subsystems made of these various materials represents another major challenge on the path to meeting aggressive CAFE standards.

Please be sure to visit the website for more information on the 6th Annual Advance Lightweight Material for Automotive Summit.