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Reducing structural weight is one of the most important ways of reducing fuel consumption and improving the performance of motor vehicles and other types of transportation equipment. For example, an estimated 75% of the average motor vehicle’s fuel consumption is directly related to factors associated with vehicle weight.
Less weight, consistent with other performance and safety requirements, means more useful work can be extracted from a unit of fuel or other energy source. In addition, weight-reducing technologies are critical to the success of new, highly efficient energy technologies such as hybrid vehicles.
The alternative to downsizing is the development of materials that combine relatively low mass (weight) with the requisite strength, flexibility, and other performance criteria. The aircraft industry was the first to introduce lightweight materials (e.g., aluminum alloys) on a widespread scale beginning in the 1920s. This continues today with the adoption of lightweight composite materials.
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