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Over the decades, our cars have become longer, wider - and above all heavier. Even if this meant constant improvements to both active and passive safety levels, experts have long pointed out that this extreme weight gain also has negative side effects. In an effort to improve handling, but also to protect the environment, lightweight construction has really taken off in recent years. At HANNOVER MESSE 2017, Leichtbau BW GmbH - a network of around 1,500 companies and more than 200 research institutes from Baden-Württemberg - is demonstrating the potential of multi-material design and SMEs’ innovative prowess when applied to the bodywork of an Audi Q7. This handsome SUV sure cuts a fine figure, having "shed" up to 325 kilograms compared to its weightier predecessor.

At just under two metric tons curb weight, the latest Audi Q7 (model 3.0 TDI) is now the lightest in its vehicle class. The turning point in cars' spiraling weight came with the Audi Space Frame (ASF), a cutting-edge multi-material body. Its clever combination of steel and aluminum in the bodywork shaved 71 kilos off its forerunner. Besides alternative material components, new geometric lightweight solutions, such as torsion rings, were used in the bodywork structure. These bionically inspired closed ring structures help significantly stiffen the bodywork and thus boost the car’s overall performance. Dr. Wolfgang Seeliger, the managing director of Leichtbau BW GmbH, explains: "Vehicles like the Q7 show the competition between materials such as steel, aluminum and CFRP is entering a new phase. At the same time, the trend in lightweight construction is moving away from 'material wars' toward intelligent new product and functional concepts."