By 2011, Mazda Motor Corp. vehicles will be lighter by at least 220 pounds, according to Robert Davis, senior vice president of product development and quality for Mazda North American Operations.
Mazda plans to achieve this goal using a combination of lighter-weight materials, smaller vehicle footprints and new engineering processes. Davis, speaking to the Motor Press Guild, said that each time any Mazda vehicle gets redesigned, it gains about 80 pounds.
The additional weight mostly comes from larger tires and wheels, and safety equipment. For instance, a base 2003 Protege sedan had a curb weight of 2,634 pounds.
In 2004, the Protege evolved into the redesigned Mazda3 sedan that weighed 2,696 pounds. It further evolved into the 2010 Mazda3 that weighs 2,868 pounds.
A 220-pound reduction in the vehicle's curb weight will improve its fuel economy by 3 to 5 percent. Of course, there will be consequences in lowering the weight. Engineers have to consider the aspects involving fuel economy, safety regulations, and performance.
Lighter materials, such as aluminum or high-strength steel, are more expensive than traditional steel. And definitely, a significant amount of time will be utilized to come up with a more ideal body structure.
Another idea is to have new processes such as finding a way to bond aluminum to steel. However, relying on technological breakthroughs will mean waiting around for something that may take too long.