As the car industry slowly adopts electrification as its most probable transportation solution in the coming years, it's also facing a major issue closely related to the EV boom. The cars around the world are not only getting bigger, more comfortable, safer, and advanced, but they are also getting heavier.
The OEMs are now more focused on performance and aerodynamics than ever. A big part of the efficiency of a battery in an EV depends on the aerodynamics. So, if the motion of the air is better affected by a specific car, then there should be less energy required to move forward. The problem is the weight of the batteries.
The latest data collected by JATO shows an increase of 21% on the average curb weight of cars sold in Europe between 2001 and 2022. According to the data, the average weight of a car sold in 2001 was 1,328 kg. This total has increased almost every year up to 1,600 kg today. In USA, where the vehicles are bigger, their weight jumped from 1,713 kg in 2001 to 1,908 kg today.
The batteries have a cost
The double-digit increases have other reasons too. Although the obesity problem of cars is not only due to the batteries, the EV boom has considerably increased the average weight of cars. For example, the average weight of an electric/plug-in hybrid car sold in Germany between January and September 2022 was 32% higher than a petrol competitor.
For instance, the electric version of the Peugeot 208 posted an average weight of 1,530 kg against 1,153 kg for the equivalent version powered by a petrol engine. It is pretty much the case of the Volkswagen ID.3 and the Golf, with 1,830 kg and 1,388 kg of weight respectively.
This gap falls to 10% in USA, as the petrol vehicles are usually bigger and heavier than in Europe. Still, there are big differences too. The Ford F-150 Lightning is 28% heavier than its petrol brother.
The other causes
However, the obesity of cars is not a recent thing. The arrival of electric cars accelerated the increase of weight, but other factors have also affected the average.
Safety standards, the size of cars, and SUV popularity are also behind this problem. The production of cars today involves several more safety standards that did not exist 20 years ago. More features on cars mean more weight. For example, the recently revealed Volvo EX90, which is one of the state-of-the-art cars in terms of safety showed a weight of 2,818 kg. Its ancestor, the first generation XC90 used to report an average weight of 2,018 kg in 2002.
The cars are also getting bigger. The Volkswagen Golf MK3, available between 1991 and 1998 used to measure 4,074 mm in length. The current generation is 4,248 mm long. The length of a 1995 Ford Explorer was 190.7 inches (4,844 mm), and the 2022 version is 198.8 inches (5,050 mm) long. In many cases, the vehicles that used to sit in a specific segment twenty years would be considered from a segment below under the current standards.
Finally, SUVs have also contributed to this phenomenon. Whilst consumers, especially in Europe, used to drive small hatchbacks and city-cars, they are now opting for small and compact SUVs. The SUVs currently available in Europe are 27% heavier than the hatchbacks, and 54% heavier than city-cars. In USA, as consumers continue to shift from saloons to SUVs, the latter were 22% heavier than the former.
The author of the article, Felipe Munoz, is an Automotive Industry Specialist at JATO Dynamics.