New Industry Challenges

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The auto industry is slowly adopting electrification as the most likely transportation solution in the coming years, but it is also facing major problems closely related to the electric vehicle boom. Cars around the world aren’t just getting bigger, more comfortable, safer, and more sophisticated: they’re also getting heavier.

Car manufacturers are increasingly focusing on performance and aerodynamics. A large part of battery efficiency in electric vehicles depends on aerodynamics. So if the air movement is affected more by a particular car, less energy is required to move forward. The problem is the weight of the battery.

The latest data compiled by JATO shows that the average weight of cars sold in Europe increased by 21 percent between 2001 and 2022. According to the data, the average weight of cars sold in 2001 was 2,928 pounds (1,328 kilograms). This total increases almost every year to its current level of 3,527 lbs (1,600 kg). In the United States, where vehicles are larger, weight has increased from 3,777 lbs (1,713 kg) in 2001 to 4,206 lbs (1,908 kg) today.

Motor1 Weight Figures

Fat Battery

The double-digit increase also has other reasons. While the problem of obesity in cars isn’t just about batteries, the explosion of electric vehicles has significantly increased the average car weight. For example, the average weight of electric/plug-in hybrid cars sold in Germany between January and September 2022 is 32 percent higher than that of petrol-powered competitors.

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Another example: the electric version of the Peugeot 208 clocks in at an average weight of 3,373 lbs (1,530 kg) compared to 2,542 lbs (1,153 kg) for the petrol equivalent version. The same goes for the Volkswagen ID.3 and Golf, which weigh 4,034 lbs (1,830 kg) and 3,060 lbs (1,388 kg, respectively).

Motor1 Weight Figures

This gap drops to 10 percent in the US, as pure combustion vehicles are generally larger and heavier than in Europe. However, there is also a big difference there. The Ford F-150 Lightning is 28 percent heavier than its ICE-powered sibling.

It’s Not Just a Battery

However, mobile obesity is not a new phenomenon. The presence of electric cars has accelerated weight gain, but other factors also affect mass gain.

Safety standards, car size and the popularity of SUVs also contribute to this problem. Producing a car today involves many more safety standards than it did 20 years ago. More systems in a car means more weight. For example, the recently launched Volvo EX90, which is one of the most advanced cars in terms of safety, weighs 6,213 lbs (2,818 kg). Its ancestor, the first-generation XC90, weighed an average of 4,449 (2,018 kg) in 2002.

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Motor1 Weight Figures

The cars then got bigger and bigger. The Volkswagen Golf MK3, which was available between 1991 and 1998, measures 160 inches (4,074 millimeters) long. The current generation is 167 inches (4,248 mm) long. The 1995 Ford Explorer is 190.7 inches (4,844 mm) long, while the 2022 version is 198.8 inches (5,050 mm). In many cases, a vehicle that was in a certain segment twenty years ago would be considered to be in a lower segment by today’s standards.

Finally, SUVs also contribute to this phenomenon. While consumers, especially in Europe, used to drive small economy and city cars, they are now choosing small and compact SUVs. The SUV currently available in Europe is 27 percent heavier than a small car and 54 percent heavier than a city car. In the US, as consumers continue to switch from sedans to SUVs, SUVs are 22 percent heavier than before.

The author of this article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO dynamics.

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