The targeted use of lightweight engineering can help to considerably reduce the fuel consumption of automobiles. Here too, Mercedes engineers are taking a holistic approach and using all available means to make Mercedes-Benz vehicles lighter, and thus even more economical and efficient. The brand is using every opportunity to reduce the weight of all components — from engines and transmissions to the vehicle interiors and electrical systems.

Special attention is given to the automobile body, which accounts for most of a vehicle’s weight. Most body shells in the past were made of steel. However, as early as the 1970s Mercedes-Benz became one of the first automakers to use aluminum in a production vehicle — in this case the SL series. The new SLS AMG is equipped with a fully aluminum body, and thus points the way forward for future model series. Today, however, extensive use of lightweight engineering is not limited to Mercedes sports cars; it is also found in the brand’s sedans. In fact, Mercedes-Benz is now one of the biggest users of aluminum among automakers. At the same time, though, the brand intentionally avoids focusing on one specific material. Instead, it relies on a mixture of high-strength steels, light metals, and plastics.

The doors, hood, trunk lid, and fenders of the new CLS are all made of aluminum. This has led to a weight reduction of 24 kilograms just for the doors, which are also frameless. The front end of the CLS consists of an aluminum-plastic material mix.

Furthermore, Mercedes engineers are increasingly working with so-called composites — carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, known as FRP for short. Mercedes-Benz demonstrated its expertise in this field ten years ago in the form of a complete vehicle — the SLR. The carbon fiber-reinforced plastics, or CFRPs, used in this model are the premier fiber materials in the industry. With approximately 2,000 SLRs produced, Mercedes-Benz has put more vehicles with these materials on the road than any other automaker. This also shows that carbon fiber-reinforced plastics are well able to meet the stringent safety requirements for automobile bodies. The carbon fiber-reinforced plastic technology is today being used in series production throughout the Group. Carbon fiber-reinforced plastics are used in many different products, including buses, Unimogs, and AMG vehicles.

Mercedes-Benz is also working intensively on the advanced development of carbon fiber-reinforced plastic technologies, primarily with the objective of reducing its still-high costs so as to enable a broad-scale rollout of the technology. Here the company is also making use of the experience gained in the aerospace sector and successfully adapting it to its vehicles.

Daimler has established a development partnership for improving the technology with the world’s leading supplier of carbon fiber, the TORAY company of Japan. This is the right basis for beginning a new chapter in body development. Mercedes-Benz plans to begin using further CFRP components in series-production applications in 2012.

Source: Daimler AG