RMI's design philosophy for sustainable transport focuses on the “end use” of energy. This means concentrating on what the energy moves—people and freight—and the platforms that carry them. Our emphasis is on the platform first, before examining the propulsion technology or source of fuel.
We’ve found that ultimately, the platform—whether it be the chassis and body of a car, the tractor and trailer of a truck, or a plane’s aerostructure—is the highest leverage point to accelerate efficiency.
We call this focus “platform efficiency” or “platform fitness." Our philosophy is to work at the forefront of practical design, materials, technology and manufacturing to “shape up” our vehicles so that they require less fuel to move.
Learn how RMI is collaborating with key industry stakeholders to identify, evaluate, and enable part-specific pathways to market that cankickstart high-volume adoption of automotive carbon fiber composites.
Lightweighting and Platform Physics
Cars and light trucks have steadily gained weight for two decades. RMI is helping organizations identify and execute practical opportunities to lightweight and optimize their platforms through new designs, materials, technologies and engineering approaches. In addition, we conduct research and advises policy on the larger implications of lightweighting, including regulation, life-cycle impacts and safety.
How Lightweighting Works
The key to taking significant amount of weight out of a vehicle without making it smaller is to substitute lighter, yet stronger materials such as advanced composites, aluminum, or lightweight steel for heavier materials. Once the platform is lighter, the engine (or battery) can be downsized while maintaining original performance.
Simply put, every pound removed from the electric vehicle fleet will make electrification easier. Trying to put a battery into a heavy automobile designed to run on an internal combustion engine creates unnecessary challenges. By reducing weight, cars can be designed to run on electricity and reap the multiple benefits of efficiency.
Not only does systems thinking help find solutions to particular resource problems, it also reveals interconnections between problems. This often permits one solution to be leveraged to create many more which in turn can allow companies to “tunnel through the cost barrier”— in other words, saving capital and operating costs by achieving drastic efficiency gains through integration.
The transportation industry is moving towards radical, next-generation efficiency, and our Accelerated Breakthrough Vehicle Design (ABVD) process will help accomplish next-generation goals in vehicle design.
Often occurring via our innovation labs, ABVD creates the most cost-effective approaches to radical fuel economy. By using our Platform Fitness approach, we can combine the best in vehicle design with advanced financial modeling capabilities, helping make our platforms lighter, more efficient and with less drag while maintaining performance, size, safety and quality. This approach combines the best in vehicle design with advanced financial modeling capabilities.