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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Fiat Chrysler's chassis design is full of holes... literally

The company is investigating "lightening holes" for lower curb weights and improved efficiency.

Are you still using a pickaxe to put speed holes in your car? Well, first of all, stop; that was never a good idea. Not that it matters, because Fiat Chrysler has a better place to put some holes.

FCA is working on a clever way to shave some additional weight from its vehicles. It's looking into "lightening holes," which are about as simple as the name suggests -- they're holes placed in certain parts of a vehicle's frame to confer specific benefits, namely weight loss.

Don't act like you knew where the holes were supposed to go.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Of course, these holes aren't being placed all willy-nilly like. They're being placed in specific components that can afford to ditch extra material. Cut too many holes, and you're going to have problems with rigidity, durability and -- perhaps most important -- safety. You don't want a car with the driving dynamics and safety capability of a wet noodle, after all.

But if you do get those speed -- er, lightening -- holes in the right spot, say hello to improvements the customer will appreciate. After running simulations on a virtual truck chassis, FCA's engineers saw weight savings between 3 and 5 percent, which is no small amount. A lighter curb weight is beneficial in a number of ways, but perhaps the one the customer will most appreciate is an increase in fuel economy, even if it's just a small improvement.

This specific type of weight loss won't work for every part, but the algorithms that FCA engineers developed to figure this issue out could be applied to any vehicle component. This technology won't just benefit the customer, but the automaker, as well -- this type of modeling can speed up development, which means new cars come to market sooner than they would otherwise. OK, that one actually benefits both consumer and manufacturer.

The algorithms that help find places to shed weight is but one of 24 different technical papers that FCA will present at this year's SAE World Congress and Exhibition, an annual summit put on by SAE International, formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers.