Fuel Economy and Automotive Glass

Last weekend I read about the Obama administration’s negotiated agreements with auto companies on new fuel economy standards as dictated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In my classes I mention the fact that many of the new technological advances in automotive design and features are directly related to that agreement negotiated with the carmakers.

By the end of 2016, vehicles are required to meet an average 34.5 mpg standard, and by the end of 2025, they are required to meet a 54.5 mpg average. This is obviously quite the goal, but if the vehicle manufacturers didn’t think it was possible I doubt they would have agreed to the standard.

So, how are carmakers going to meet those fuel efficiency goals?

If the past is any indication, it is through making vehicles lighter weight and using technology to reduce fuel waste. We have already seen things that are going the way of fuel efficiency. For example we have already seen:

  • An increase in all glass roofs. Glass surfaces cut through the air with less friction than a painted surface. If the vehicle is more aerodynamic, the better the fuel economy.
  • Electric and hybrid vehicles. The more these vehicles are sold and made common, the more fuel is saved and the fewer new vehicles that require fuel are manufactured.
  • The use of composite materials and more aluminum. The introduction of the new F-150 Ford with an all-aluminum body is just the beginning of this material gaining acceptance. Let’s face it, aluminum is the metal of the auto market’s future.
  • The Advance Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) eliminate the human driver wastefulness. Lead feet, hard braking, jackrabbit starts are what oil companies pray for. The ADAS technology will eliminate the effect of many of those bad habits.
  • Lastly, lighter-weight glass. The Gorilla glass experiment on the Ford GT is one example of how the glass industry is trying to help the carmakers reach their goal. Even though the glass is only Gorilla glass on the inside layer, and so shouldn’t affect windshield breakage, it is substantially lighter in weight than the normal windshield we are used to.

Bob1 04072016So what does this mean to the automotive glass replacement industry? Increasing the glass surface is usually the first place car designers go to reduce weight. The more surface area in a vehicle that is glass, the better the aerodynamics. An added plus is that glass is relatively cheap in comparison to plastics, steel or aluminum and is made out of the most plentiful raw materials in the world, sand.

Since the introduction of press-bending glass, glass can come in very exotic shapes and sizes which assist carmakers in the goals for better fuel efficiency.

Bob2 04072016Take the Citroën in France for example, Citroën uses a windshield that takes up half of the roof offering better visibility and better fuel economy due to less drag from the moulding or top pinchweld. The glass is huge, but considering that Europe has been paying premium prices for fuel for decades, saving costs on fuel is as big an issue there,

The European model of glass design is one that will eventually come to the United States, due mostly to the fuel directive given by the EPA. But don’t be surprised if U.S. ingenuity doesn’t come up with even more. Why do I think that some of those ideas will involve automotive glass and its installation?