In a bid to meet strict 2016 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards, the pickup truck segment might face the biggest challenge of all. While more efficient engines are part of the solution, automakers are increasingly looking at cutting weight as a way to improve overall fuel economy.
The first of a new generation of pickup trucks will be the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, and according to Rick Spina, head of full-size truck development for General Motors, it could be as much as 500 lbs lighter than the current model. Spina didn’t stop there, however, stating that by the 2020s GM hopes to cut as much as 1,000 lbs from its trucks.
To do so GM will have to move away from steel and begin using more steel alloys, aluminum and even magnesium in it trucks – all of which are certain to increase manufacturing and, therefore, retail costs.
2016 CAFE regulations will require a 35.5 mpg average, and with roughly half of all vehicle sales consisting of light trucks, then the auto industry is looking at having to build trucks that get 30 CAFE mpg. (It’s important to note here that CAFE is roughly 25 percent higher than the EPA sticker MPG that consumers are used to seeing on cars).
Still, Chevy has a long way to go to meet that goal and all other automakers will be forced to follow suit, effectively turning around an historical piling-on of weight while fuel economy increases have been minimal. Since 2000, the average weight of light duty trucks has gone up 22 percent, while fuel economy has improved just 2 percent.