by Bob Beranek
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We have often talked about how the windshield and other auto glass parts contribute to the safety of the vehicle occupants. However, did you know that the glass parts in an automobile are instrumental in the fuel efficiency as well?

Obviously, safety is a major concern to all who make, sell, buy and service a vehicle, but fuel savings are also a concern to automakers, owners and climate change advocates. The Obama administration put a mandate upon vehicle manufacturers to reach a Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard of 54.5 mpg average on their vehicles by 2026. The current administration has proposed to change that directive because it felt the requirement was unattainable. Until the Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Standards are voted on, the Obama CAFÉ standards are still in play. Carmakers are looking to glass manufacturers to make discoveries that reduce weight and drag.

What does this mean to the auto glass industry?

There are a couple of reasons why glass is important to carmakers when it comes to fuel efficiency.

Photo courtesy of Elektrek

  1. Glass is smoother than painted steel so if more glass is used in manufacture, the less drag there is, and more miles can be driven on a gallon of gas. Therefore, you see so many vehicles with panoramic roofs, new headlight systems, and drastic curves in the glass like the Tesla X.
  2. The exposed-edge windshield mountings also contribute. The fewer mouldings there are around the windshield, the better the drag coefficient a vehicle has. The less drag, the more miles are squeezed from a gallon of gas.
  3. Gorilla glass is lighter weight than normal annealed glass, so Corning decided to introduce themselves into the auto glass market. The same goes for thinner windshield construction. Honda introduced asymmetrical glass a few years ago. They figured that if they could put thinner glass on the inside surface of the windshield and keep the outer glass the same, they could reduce the weight by 25%. Less weight equals more fuel efficiency.
  4. The Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) is not only a safety system, it also contributes to fuel efficiency as well. Adaptive cruise control sets a speed and the vehicle sticks by it without a lead-footed driver accelerating and braking erratically.

Glass is primarily made of sand, a material that is plentiful and inexpensive to obtain. If carmakers are concerned about the price of their product and the need to meet CAFÉ standards, they will use glass to reduce costs and provide safety and performance. We will be there to put it in.