Although Aluminium in automobiles has been used for several years its proportion in new vehicles increases steadily. Nevertheless, the use of aluminium adoption in automobiles and demand varies from country to country for various reasons.
During the last several years aluminium use in automobiles and light trucks marks the highest growth from all other aluminium applications, in any segment of use. Aluminium remains “the fastest growing automotive material over competing materials and is entering its most unprecedented growth phase since we’ve been tracking the shifting mix of automotive materials,” the latest survey of automakers by Ducker Worldwide (U.S. leading consultancy) showed.
The WardsAuto and DuPont Automotive survey also confirms aluminium is the first preferred material of choice among engineers and designers to help meet the expected fuel economy and emissions standards by 2025.
Additional prospects for even higher aluminium demand comes from electric vehicles revolution, entering the market sooner and faster than anyone could expect. In the electric vehicle (EV) market, the biggest factor that drives consumer preference, aside of high but falling costs, is driving range. To achieve a high range for a given battery size and weight, weight reduction of EV is needed. And again, the preferred material in EV lightening is aluminium.
The e-Golf has 129 kg of aluminium and the Leaf uses 171 kg while Tesla’s luxury Model S contains 661 kg of the metal, according to A2mac1 Automotive Benchmarking.
Sales of electric and hybrid vehicles are due to surge to 30 % of the global auto market by 2030, according to metal consultants CRU, up from 4 % of the 86 million vehicles sold last year.
CRU also predicts demand for aluminium from electric and hybrid vehicles is to increase ten times to nearly 10 million tonnes by 2030.
Lightening of Vehicles Spurred Demand for Aluminium
All future automobiles will need to satisfy stringent emission standards and the best way to do it with exciting technologies is to reduce their weight. Various aluminium alloys, all kinds and generations of advanced high strength steels, then magnesium, composite materials (carbon fiber) and various plastic materials are the main to be used in automobiles to achieve that goal. Parallel with new types of alloys new techniques of material shaping/designing are established and used.
Lightening of vehicles must be done without compromise regarding safetey before all, quality, and performace. It is neccesary to be efficient, funcional lightening – meeting fuel emission guidlines. And preferably not too much costly.
The combination of strength with ductility is the key performance parameter for automotive applications.
Although aluminium in automobiles has been used for more than two decades, mostly in engine and power train castings and wheels, meaning cast parts and extrusions, the new aluminium sheet alloys and new production and assembling (welding) techniques will enable significant increase of aluminium sheet use in most selling automobiles and not only in luxury models.
According to Ducker Worldwide, between 2015 and 2020 the average vehicle in North America is expected to lose 100 pounds (45 kg) thanks to lightweighting. Aluminium will account for 57 % of that loss. Advanced high strength steels will account for 40 %.
Aluminium and AHSS Content as Percent of Vehicle Curb Weight to Rise
The main battle for a position in future cars is lead between aluminium and steel. The latest outcome is that aluminium is advancing and increasing its content in cars while steel, with its advanced high strength steel (AHSS) variations is defending its still dominant position.
Aluminium content in cars is increasing with fastest pace and highest quantity per car in North America.
The first step in vehicle lightening can be done by use of advanced high strength steels, but there are limits to that. For big weight savings is needed lighter material, while aluminium is an optimal solution. So aluminium will be used in big cars (SUVs), while AHSS will most likely keep its dominance in small cars.
Economic development of a region (country) is fundamental driver for aluminium demand in automotive industry, but and other lighter materials, including AHSS, replacing mild /conventional steel. The geographic position will also have influence on favouring of aluminium or steel use. While aluminium will gain in quantity over steel in new car models made in Europe and North America, shifting to aluminium in Asian markets will be more slowly due to the costly process of change and less strict fuel emissions standards. However, the highest production growth of automobiles will occur in Asia with China the biggest producer in the world.