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According to some numbers crunched by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), weight ratios in modern cars are creating a giant problem with overall efficiency. Car weights are climbing, but passenger loads aren't, and this is the truly limiting factor when it comes to energy efficiency.

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For those who consider our current and projected transportation-infrastructure budget shortfall a weighty matter, consider a recent op-ed in The New York Times that casts the argument in just those terms. With transportation funding subsidized to the tune of about $41 billion since 2008 and the annual shortfall expected to reach almost $15 billion by 2015, the Times suggests a potential solution: imposing annual fees based on a combination of driving miles and vehicle weight.

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Americans have gained weight over the last thirty years, and not just around the midsection. American garages and driveways have also put on pounds as cars have become larger and more powerful. A new study from MIT says that, if not for the increase in vehicle weight, we could already be exceeding vehicle mileage targets still years away.

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Americans, on average, have gained enough weight during the past 40 years to cancel out automakers' vehicle-lightweighting efforts such as using lighter components or removing spare tire, reflecting an additional challenge automakers face to meet progressively more strict fuel-economy and greenhouse-gas emissions standards. The information comes from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a recent Automotive News report.

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Hybrid models have the advantage of fuel economy over their gas-only siblings, but it appears that batteries and electric motors make them safer as well. The Highway Loss Data Institute studied 25 2003 to 2011 vehicles that featured both conventional and hybrid powertrains (example: Honda Civic and Honda Civic Hybrid). The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were not included in the study since neither vehicle has a conventionally-powered counterpart.

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Hybrid models don't just have the advantage of fuel economy over their gas-only siblings – it appears that batteries and electric motors make them safer as well. To find this out, the Highway Loss Data Institute studied 25 2003 to 2011 vehicles that featured both conventional and hybrid powertrains (example: Honda Accord and Honda Accord Hybrid). The Toyota Prius and Honda Insight were not included in the study since neither vehicle has a conventionally-powered counterpart.

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The 2012 Fisker Karma is officially rated by the EPA at 52 MPGe and 20 miles per gallon when its battery runs out of juice. In addition, the plug-in boasts 32 miles of electric-only range. Though these numbers can feel disappointing, there's a reason for the Karma's less than stellar EPA numbers. 5,300 reasons, to be exact.

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At its annual technology day in Ingolstadt yesterday, Audi revealed more information about its redesigned 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel engine. The refreshed powerplant will be appearing in an array of products from the Volkswagen Group this year, including the new Touareg, Cayenne and the Porsche Q7 update.

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How does weight affect a vehicle's efficiency?

Over the last few decades, the average weight of a vehicle sold in the U.S. climbed steadily after we got over the oil embargoes of the 1970s. Today, though, auto companies are putting a lot of effort into reducing weight – Lotus set up an entire lightweight structures division, BMW is investing millions into carbon fiber and Jaguar loves aluminum – because every ounce you take out of a car improves the vehicle's performance and fuel economy. Options for weight savings that automaker

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The next generation of BMW's 3-series looks like it will get some major revisions when it arrives in about two years. The new model is expected to be the first in the range to get new turbocharged three cylinder engines in both gas and diesel variants. The three-cylinder engines will likely be 1.5-liter units that are essentially half of the latest generation's inline sixes.

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The next generation BMW 3-series is set to get some major revisions when it arrives in two year's time. The new model is expected to be the first in the range to get a line of turbocharged three-cylinder engines in both gas and diesel variants, and will likely be 1.5-liter units -- essentially halved versions of the latest generation inline-sixes.

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Hyundai is already near the top of the fuel economy ranks in the U.S. market, but that's not enough to meet future requirements. Currently, Hyundai trails only Honda and Toyota in the CAFE race. Going forward, Hyundai plans to upgrade its powertrains and reduce mass to get its conventional vehicles to use less fuel. On the propulsion front, the Korean manufacturer plans to shift to direct injection with both normally aspirated and turbocharged engines. Sister brand Kia already showed the Koup co

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The philosophy of Lotus founder Colin Chapman was always to make his cars as light as possible. He is reported to have said at various times "to add speed, add lightness" and "simplicate, than add lightness." Over the years, Lotus cars have often been among the lightest of their kind and innovations in weight reduction continue to this day. The work that Lotus has done in developing low mass vehicle structures for cars like the Lotus Elise and the Tesla Roadster is set to expand with the acquisi

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The current GMT920 full-size SUVs from General Motors are very likely to be the last of their kind from the Detroit automaker. Even though new fuel economy standards give the big trucks a break based on their footprint, radical changes are likely for the next-generation models. A fully-equipped Tahoe is well over 5,500lbs and a big part of reducing fuel consumption in the next few years will be weight reduction. One step in that direction will be a shift from the body on frame designs these vehi

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With fuel prices ever creeping northwards you'd think the automakers would start slowing down on upping the size of their new models. Unfortunately, the notion of 'less is more' isn't the case when it comes to building and selling new cars. The belief in the auto industry is that consumers view bigger as better, a problem that's increasingly being associated with vehicles not normally regarded as being large.

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click above to view more shots of the Ferrari FXX Millechili from Winding Road

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