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Nissan leads the way with a focus on light weight car construction

It might sounds a bit boring, but Nissan’s new Lightweighting Excellence Program, which aims to help the brand produce lighter cars, is exactly the right thing to do…

MOST NEW CAR press releases feature a dizzying array of acroynms describing the electronic systems that are necessary to meet modern standards for safety, emissions and performance. There’s corner brake control for handling, launch control for quick takeoffs, electronic brakeforce distribition and advanced ABS for braking… the list goes on.
Car manufacturers love to promote their electronics, which are, when it comes down to it, all just the same from brand to brand as they’re largely made by the same few electronics specialists, just renamed by each carmaker’s marketing department. Well, okay, there’s a bit of tuning in there too but the point stands.
But you know what? There’s one way to improve every aspect of handling, plus reduce stopping distance and fuel consumption. You just make the car lighter, and that’s what Nissan intends to do with the “Lightweighting Excellence Programme”.
Easy to say, hard to do. Modern cars are heavier than ever, and for good reason. Stiffer and stronger structures are demanded for safety programmes, more and more electric motors are packed in, and cars become increasingly electronic. Yet the extra mass is ably moved by complex engines, and the vehicle’s dynamics are kept under control by computers controlling gearshifts, engine, even suspension. And then we demand ever-larger cars, with more and more luxury features.
But if the tendency to gain weight was reversed – and we’re seeing signs of that here and there with the latest Mazda MX-5, and the latest Range Rover – then you have what’s called a virtous circle. Lighter cars need lighter components – smaller engines, smaller brakes, lighter chassis. This in turn makes the car lighter, so you can use lighter components again. And with a light car there’s no need for complicated, expensive and heavy electronic systems to keep things under control. The MX-5 is an exemplar of this approach.
So good on Nissan for fighting automotive obesity. They say that their efforts are an “extensive mass reduction programme, which has resulted in a 90kg weight loss for the X-trail and 40kg for the new Qashqai.” They also intend to use “materials and techniques used in the motorsport and aerospace industries including the materials used in space travel.”
Nissan say that the Lightweighting Programme work is being undertaken as part of the “LX consortium of auto manufacturers and research bodies led by Sigmatex and supported by Axillium Research, in partnership with Cranfield University, Engenuity, Expert Tooling & Automation, Granta Design, Group Rhodes, LMAT, Surface Generation and Tilsatec. The consortium seeks to enhance the capability within the UK automotive supply chain to manufacture composite components.”

That’s good to hear, because the true essence of driving is found not through electronic aids but through purity of lightweight design, so we look forwards to lighter Nissans in the near future. That Y62 Patrol in the title weighs around 2600kg and moves from 0-100 in under 7.5 seconds. Imagine what it could do if it weighed 1900kg, and how much better the handling and fuel consumption would be!


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7 years ago

I dont think colin chapman has a gas guzzling y62 patrol in mind when he said simplify and add lightness but it certainly qualifies.

Range rover did well to pull the the equivalent of olympic medal winning heavy weight clean and jerk out (including the lifter) of the rr and sport But then again if you dont put it on you dont have to lose it.

Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper