A new approach to green cars

For decades now, automakers have been researching alternative fuels to provide the world with a more efficient, environmentally friendly vehicle. Electricity, hydrogen and even solar power have been embraced by automakers attempting to decrease emissions.

While these endeavours have provided impressive results, recent research has identified other technologies that could improve the efficiency of all of these green cars.

Perhaps the most important factor, the steel used to manufacture these low-emission cars could be holding back the vehicles' greener potential.

Many automakers use steel to build various automotive components, including the framing and chassis. Unfortunately, this metal is rather heavy and so can significantly increase fuel consumption rates and carbon emissions.

While a large number of car manufacturers have adopted alternatives such as aluminium or carbon fibre, steel still makes up most of the weight in the majority of vehicles on the road.

Fortunately, automotive giants Ford, BMW and Volkswagen have started investigating lighter, more environmentally friendly materials.

In particular, Ford has announced their new F-150 Ute is made largely of high-strength aluminium alloy, which has reduced the vehicle's average weight by 700 pounds (318 kilograms). This has eliminated the need to equip the Ute with a large engine which would burn a lot of fuel, which significantly improves fuel economy.

BMW has also embraced this lighter trend by announcing the intention to use carbon fibre as a replacement for steel. Their recently revealed i3 model is made largely from this material, making this the lightest mass-produced electric car on the market.

Volkswagen's foray into the alternative materials has led them to adopt both aluminium and carbon fibre to create greener cars. The XLi features a carbon-fibre body with aluminium components. These features have led to the XLi achieving an impressive 1-litre/100 kilometre fuel efficiency.

If you are a fleet manager hoping to improve your car fuel consumption, you may want to consider keeping an eye out for vehicles made with alternative materials instead of the traditional steel.