Vehicle mass as a determinant of fuel consumption and secondary safety performance

One interaction between environmental and safety goals in transport is found within the vehicle fleet where fuel economy and secondary safety performance of individual vehicles impose conflicting requirements on vehicle mass from an individual’s perspective. Fleet characteristics influence the relationship between the environmental and safety outcomes of the fleet; the topic of this paper. Cross-sectional analysis of mass within the British fleet is used to estimate the partial effects of mass on the fuel consumption and secondary safety performance of vehicles. The results confirmed that fuel consumption increases as mass increases and is different for different combinations of fuel and transmission types. Additionally, increasing vehicle mass generally decreases the risk of injury to the driver of a given vehicle in the event of a crash. However, this relationship depends on the characteristics of the vehicle fleet, and in particular, is affected by changes in mass distribution within the fleet. We confirm that there is generally a trade-off in vehicle design between fuel economy and secondary safety performance imposed by mass. Cross-comparison of makes and models by model-specific effects reveal cases where this trade-off exists in other aspects of design. Although it is shown that mass imposes a trade-off in vehicle design between safety and fuel use, this does not necessarily mean that it imposes a trade-off between safety and environmental goals in the vehicle fleet as a whole because the secondary safety performance of a vehicle depends on both its own mass and the mass of the other vehicles with which it collides. Reza Tolouei, Helena Titheridge.

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