This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 12, 2003

Studies: Aluminum Frames, "Air Hybrids" Yield Fuel Savings

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) wrapped up its annual World Congress in Detroit on March 6th, and the latest studies presented there suggest a number of new technologies that could save fuel in vehicles. Aluminum frames, for instance, have already been used on vehicles like the Honda Insight, but are they practical for larger sport utility vehicles (SUVs)? Yes they are, according to a study presented by Ford Motor Company. Ford engineers found that aluminum could be used to cut the weight of an SUV's frame by 40 percent while maintaining the performance of a steel frame. See the SAE press release.

Another study presented at the SAE World Congress suggests that batteries might not be the best form of energy storage for vehicles. The study found that capturing and storing the energy of braking in the form of compressed air, and then using it to assist when accelerating, could be achieved more easily than the current battery-motor-generator combination used in hybrid-electric technologies. Such "air hybrids" could achieve fuel savings of up to 64 percent in city driving, without using a smaller engine, according to the study. See the SAE press release.