It’s a gas, gas, gas

The recent report by Corus and the AA that finds weight reduction as a major design issue for new cars, probably confirms what is intuitive to any designer. One only has to look at the lengths automotive suppliers go to retain contracts.

German-based Wagon, one of the few UK companies supplying mass produced parts to the auto industry, stakes it’s future on weight reduction. Wagon supplies door systems and car body structures to over ten million cars of the most fastidious car corporations yearly.

Magnesium alloys will provide the next weight reduction, hopes Wagon. Although Wagon doesn’t know who its first customer will be, chief executive Nick Brayshaw is confident enough to invest in research, development and tooling. Environmental issues, believes Brayshaw, will be one of the main drivers of change resulting in mass production hybrid powered vehicles (see p17) which, in turn, will force weight reduction measures.

Of course, I’m only talking about the European auto industry where the environmentally concerned have the lobby to affect the automotives. Not so in the US. The collapse of climate talks in The Hague leaves the US uncommitted to CO2 reduction and Europe to go it alone.

Climate analyst Michael Grubb, of Imperial College London says that the world has so little oil left in the ground that it could burn the lot without wrecking the climate. There is simply not enough carbon in conventional oil and gas deposits on their own to get us anywhere near the atmospheric concentrations currently under discussion, claims Grubb.

But in the long run, perhaps this is the best philosophy — get rid of the stuff as quickly as possible so that the world can get on with the future. So, while weight and efficiency drive European design criteria, US designs are still cost sensitive. As long as petroleum is affordable there will be guzzlers.