Night Road – Weight is not (always) our enemy

It is true that the numbers are eloquent. A Citroën AX 11 RE from 1986 weighs 645 kg, a current Citroën C3 1.2 1,077 kg. That is an increase of more than 400 kg. Between the two, a Saxo weighed 1.1 825 kg.

This weight is found among all manufacturers: would they have given themselves the word to redistribute us heavier cars, so expensive and profitable? Not really. The main reason our mounts have gone down the fat road is not gears as you might hear. An air conditioner / 4 electric windows / sound system weighs less than 50 kg.

The explanation is elsewhere. In the mid-1980s, manufacturers began to seriously address the issue of passive safety as a whole, which is admittedly notoriously flawed in the vast majority of cars.

This led to them developing much stronger but also heavier hulls. For example, much was made of the weight of the Fiat Tipo in 1988, often 100 kg heavier than the competition, and at least 150 kg heavier than the Ritmo it replaced. But Tipo was much more resilient in the event of a collision. A climb order that we find from AX to Saxo (825 kg in 1.1), but still made from the same platform.

The 1996 Citroën Saxo, the development of the AX, weighs 180 kg ahead of it, and from close to nothing, its passive safety simply becomes very poor. However, it is on the rise.

But when you consult EuroNcap, Saxo gets very poor results (1 and a half stars), so you wonder how AX would have behaved in the crash test. In my opinion completely scary.

Saxo was replaced by the 1st generation C3, which weighs 980 kg in version 1.1 or 155 kg more than its predecessor. But it has made colossal advances in passive safety and rose to 4 stars at EuroNcap. Subsequently, progress in this sector slowed and the increase in car weight followed the same trend.

The Citroën C3 replaced the Saxo in 2002 and still weighs an additional 100 kg in weight.  But it protects its passengers infinitely better in the event of a collision.
The Citroën C3 replaced the Saxo in 2002 and still weighs an additional 100 kg in weight. But it protects its passengers infinitely better in the event of a collision.

So what do we want? Light and dangerous cars in case of a collision, or heavy cars that effectively protect their passengers? The answer seems clear. The other option would be to use ultralight materials, but they are very expensive. It is no coincidence that BMW did not replace its I3, which is largely made of carbon fiber: it should not be profitable at all despite its high price.

Another alleged source of heaviness: the appetite for SUVs, the pets of a lot of activists. These stigmatize them again and again without worrying about the vehicles they have replaced in the hearts of buyers, namely minivans. But with the same engine, a VW Tiguan (SUV) weighs only 20 kg more than a Touran (minivan), while offering similar services! Stronger, a Renaut Scenic (minivan) weighs 107 kg more than a Kadjar (SUVà) with the same engine (140 hp petrol), without being more spacious. Crazy, right?

On the other hand, electrification, desired for ecological reasons, constitutes a colossal cause of increased weight. Europe is forcing manufacturers to take this path, the only way to react quickly to injunctions regarding CO2 emissions during use. But not in manufacturing, a fundamental issue that does not seem to interest makers!

    SUV, Renault Kadjar nevertheless weighs a good hundred kilos less than a Scenic with the same engine.
SUV, Renault Kadjar nevertheless weighs a good hundred kilos less than a Scenic with the same engine.

A switch to hybrid means an additional 200 kg and total electrification almost 300 kg. For example, a Peugeot 208 Puretech 130 weighs 1,158 kg, an electric 136 hp 1,455 kg. With another small battery of 50 kWh, which does not offer a miraculous autonomy. And to think that in 2035 there will be a ban on the sale of new thermals …

Here, too, a more progressive EU policy would certainly have enabled a shift towards significant reductions in CO2 emissions, which would not have generated a significant increase in these emissions in production. You need to know what you want, and above all, be well-informed about the car, far beyond the clichés conveyed by activists who are more preoccupied with their fears and their anger than the reality of things. For as it seems, the transition to all-electric may not solve anything global to the problem of emissions.

Peugeot e-208, which is perceived as virtuous because it is electric, still weighs 300 kg more than a thermal 208 at similar power.  Its production therefore emits much more CO2.
Peugeot e-208, which is perceived as virtuous because it is electric, still weighs 300 kg more than a thermal 208 at similar power. Its production therefore emits much more CO2.

Let us also not completely acquit the manufacturers, who have often put profitability before innovation, to such an extent that all the current traction motors with transverse motors use exactly the mechanical architecture that was inaugurated by the Fiat 128 in … 1969! In particular, their immobility opened a royal road to Tesla and then to the Chinese manufacturers of electric cars, much more advanced than the Europeans.

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