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How GM Engineered a Lighter Chevy Malibu

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How GM Engineered a Lighter Chevy Malibu

The Chevrolet Malibu is all new for 2016 and it certainly looks the part, but more importantly than design is just how much weight this midsize sedan has lost. Engineers have trimmed it down by around 300 pounds. That’s like dropping the equivalent of a professional wrestler!

Unquestionably the amount of mass they took out of the new Malibu is impressive. On the surface Ford’s claim of cutting 700 pounds from the F-150’s waistline sounds even more compelling, but when you think about how big a full-size truck is they have a lot of areas and systems they can optimize. That’s not the case with a midsize family car, which is small in comparison. This makes GM’s achievement particularly remarkable.

Of the 300 pounds Chevy’s 2016 Malibu has lost some 120 were removed from the structure itself. This car rides on the company’s new Epsilon II architecture.

Jesse Ortega, chief engineer of the Chevrolet Malibu said, “One of the techniques we’ve been bringing forward is optimizing around lower variations.” He explained that the car has been designed to only offer four-cylinder engines (like today’s model). This simplifies the structure and provides the opportunity to use down-gauged materials.

“We weren’t going to try to be an architecture that could do everything, because at the end of the day you’re just carrying that mass,” said Ortega. He also mentioned that in some instances it makes sense to offer a V6 engine along with four-cylinder powerplants but that was not the case with the new Malibu.

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Beyond a sensible powertrain lineup GM did a lot with advanced simulation. “We have a computer-aided approach, which we call multi-disciplinary optimization and you create the structure in math and then you run all the load cases, whether they’re crash, whether they’re stiffness, whether they’re structural, whatever they are, and then the computer goes in and says you can take mass out of here but you need to add here,” Ortega said.

Thanks to advanced computer modeling, he said Chevrolet is able to add high-strength steel only where it’s required, something that helps cut unwanted mass.

Beyond all of this Ortega said, “We have an aluminum hood,” though there’s “no structural aluminum.” This car is built almost entirely out of conventional steel.

Of course the main reason for mass reduction is to improve fuel economy. When equipped with the base 1.5-liter turbocharged engine the 2016 Malibu is estimated to return 37 MPG highway. Not surprisingly the hybrid variant will be even more economical, delivering at least 45 MPG combined.

At the end of the day GM engineers were able to deliver a 300-pound weight loss without resorting to exotic or pricey materials, which is truly an impressive achievement for a car many Americans can actually afford. the 2016 Chevy Malibu is slated to go on sale in the fourth quarter of the year.

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