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Automakers have been experimenting for decades with lightweighting, as the practice is known, but the effort Nike Air Max Thea Laces

Lighter doesn't mean less safe. Cars with new materials are already acing government crash tests. Around 30 percent of new vehicles already have hoods made of aluminum, which can absorb the same amount of impact as steel. Some car companies are teaming up with airplane makers, which have years of crash simulation data for lightweight materials.

Here's a look at some of the materials automakers will use to shed the pounds:Steel isn't going away. Chances are, high strength steel a lighter and stronger steel mixed with other elements such as nickel and titanium already makes up at least 15 percent of your car's weight. Some newer models, such as the Cadillac ATS, are nearly 40 percent high strength steel.

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Because it's lighter, the prototype can use the same small engine as Ford's subcompact Fiesta, which gets an estimated 45 mpg on the highway.

The car has aluminum brake rotors that are 39 percent lighter than cast iron ones and carbon fiber wheels that weigh 42 percent less than aluminum ones.

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"Lightweighting is going to be with us for a long time," said Hesham Ezzat, a technical fellow at GM. "Every manufacturer is going to have to leverage their entire palette of materials."

Carbon fiber is a high strength material made from woven fibers. It's half the weight of steel, it is resistant to dents and corrosion, and it offers the most design flexibility, since it can be shaped in ways that stamped metal can't.

Ford has unveiled an aluminum body 2015 F 150 pickup, which shaves up to 700 pounds off the current version. The truck goes on sale later this year.

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The car won't be in dealerships anytime soon. For one thing, it's prohibitively expensive. Its seats, for example, cost up to $73 apiece because they have carbon fiber frames. The same seats with steel frames are $12.

High strength steel costs about 15 percent more than regular steel, but less than other materials such as aluminum. It still weighs more than aluminum, but continuing advances could cut that weight. It's most commonly used in engines, wheels, hoods and trunk lids.

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"These are the technologies that will creep into vehicles in the next three to five years," said Matt Zaluzec, Nike Air Max Thea Junior Grey

The average vehicle has gained more than 800 pounds over the last 12 years and now tops out at just over 3,900 pounds, according to government data. Not only have cars gotten bigger, but safety features like air bags and more crash resistant frames have also added weight. General Motors' Chevrolet Volt electric car has to drag around a 400 pound battery.

Ford gave a Nike Air Max Tavas Camouflage

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is gaining urgency with the adoption of tougher gas mileage standards. To meet the government's goal of nearly doubling average fuel economy to 45 mpg by 2025, cars need to lose some serious pounds.

glimpse of the future last week with a lightweight Fusion car. Department of Energy, is about 800 pounds lighter than a typical Fusion thanks to dozens of changes in parts and materials.

is lighter than steel and easy to form into a variety of parts. It's also more corrosion resistant than steel.

Carbon Fiber

Some vehicles have already made a lightweight leap. Land Rover's 2013 Range Rover, which went on sale last year, dropped around 700 pounds with its all aluminum body, while the new Acura MDX shed 275 pounds thanks to increased use of high strength steel, aluminum and magnesium.

There are drawbacks. The supply of steel is many times greater than that of aluminum, and will be for many years. also costs 30 percent more than conventional steel, and a rapid increase in demand could make aluminum prices volatile.

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´╗┐Auto industry gets serious about lighter materials

Still, prototypes are helping Ford and other companies figure out the ideal mix of materials.

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Still, consultant McKinsey and Co. predicts aluminum's use in the auto industry will triple by 2030.

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Morgan Stanley estimates than shaving 110 pounds off each of the 1 billion cars on the world's roads could save $40 billion in fuel each year.

Ford's technical leader for materials and manufacturing research.

The instrument panel consists of a carbon fiber and nylon composite instead of steel. The rear window is made from the same tough but thin plastic Nike Thea Boots that covers your cellphone.

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Airplanes use it. Boats use it.

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