Average new vehicle has gained 175 pounds in the past three years, bloating made worse by transition to electric models
The average weight of a new vehicle sold in the United States last year was a whopping 4,329 pounds.
That’s over 1,000 pounds higher than the average in 1980, and up about 175 pounds in just the last three years. Essentially, more than a third of the average American car has been added in the past 40 years, a trend now exacerbated by the switch to electric models.
“(Cars) that used to weigh a ton and a half are now three tons,” Ned Curic, chief technology officer of automaker Stellantis NV, said in a recent interview with Automotive News Europe. “It’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for resources, it’s not good for efficiency.” Curic said that reining in vehicle weight at Stellantis, which makes the Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler brands, among others, is currently his biggest engineering challenge.
This wave of vehicle bloat began in the 1980s, thanks in part to new safety regulations. Airbags, crash-test ratings and more robust structures packed on vehicular pounds, while better construction and stronger materials reduced engineers’ need to worry about weight. Efficiency became less of a priority.
It’s not good for the environment, it’s not good for resources, it’s not good for efficiency
Consumer preferences changed, too. In 2018, demand for large SUVs and pickups overtook sedans and hatchbacks in the U.S. While some trucks got lighter in the past decade, the overall fleet average kept climbing as more suburban families traded their Toyota Corollas and Honda Accords for Ford F-150s and Chevy Silverados.
Then came a push for better fuel economy and emissions reductions, a process that packed on more pounds and culminated in some of the heaviest vehicles yet: battery-powered ones. EV batteries add roughly 1,000 to 1,500 pounds for a long-range sedan or SUV. Those figures could double with the beefiest new pickup trucks coming to the U.S. in the next 12 months, including the 8,000-pound Chevy Silverado and the steel-plated Tesla Cybertruck, weight unknown.