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New Report Confirms Strong, Low Weight Materials as Best Way to Reach 50+ MPG

A new study confirms that reducing vehicle weight with aluminum is the best overall enabler for significant efficiency increases. The report specifically shows that achieving new higher fuel economy standards in the 50+ MPG range is possible by combining a range of technologies that include weight reduction with advance materials. The study was conducted by a member of the AVL Group, the world’s largest independent company for the development of powertrain systems and a partner to many in the automotive industry.

The study showed no single technology approach will cost-effectively achieve the new 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) fuel economy target on its own, but that substituting lower weight aluminum in automobiles is the one consistent and cost-effective strategy that can be combined with all other efficiency improvement strategies and technologies to maximize their ability to meet the new target.

The new study, conducted by Detroit-based Scenaria and funded by the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG) found:

— There is no single vehicle technology strategy that can cost-effectively
achieve a 50+ MPG fuel economy target without significant weight
— Weight reduction can be done with materials substitution – such as
switching from steel to low-weight, high-strength aluminum – to avoid
less desirable downsizing of vehicles.
— Weight reduction helps save automakers money by providing flexibility in
decisions to use other often more expensive technologies as part of
their approach to improving fuel economy.
— Weight reduction with aluminum is a cost-effective complement to
maximize the benefits of all other fuel economy improvement

“High-volume aluminum intensive cars and trucks will be in showrooms within the next few years. As automakers continue to evolve vehicle design, they recognize aluminum’s advantages, and expect to double their use of aluminum as they move to meet the demand for more fuel efficient vehicles,” said ATG Technical Committee Chairman Doug Richman. “With aluminum, newer vehicles can weigh less without getting smaller, and consumers ultimately will benefit from higher-mileage, lower-emission cars and trucks that remain durable, safe, cost-effective and high performing.”

The report comes at a time when automakers are touting the benefits of aluminum and announcing plans to increase their use of the metal in automotive applications. Earlier this week, General Motors announced in a press release, “General Motors Research & Development has invented an industry-first aluminum welding technology expected to enable more use of the lightweight metal on future vehicles, which can help improve fuel economy and driving performance… an important step forward that will grow in importance as we increase the use of aluminum in our cars, trucks and crossovers over the next several years… this technology will allow us to do so at low cost.”

Ford CEO Allan Mulally also recently confirmed to the news media that his company also intends to use even more aluminum. On Sept. 18, Mulally told CBS News, “We have been adding more aluminum. I can tell you as an airplane person, aluminum is very durable and very strong. And the neat thing is that it brings such a reduction in weight. And so clearly, back to fuel efficiency again and durability and quality, we’re going to see more and more of these alloys going forward, to the benefit of the customer.”

About the Aluminum Association

Through its Aluminum Transportation Group, the Aluminum Association communicates the benefits of aluminum in ground transportation applications to help accelerate its penetration through research programs and related outreach activities. The ATG’s mission is to serve member companies and act as a central resource for the automotive and commercial vehicle industries on aluminum issues. Members of the ATG include: Alcoa Inc., Novelis Inc., Rio Tinto Alcan, Aluminum Precision Products Inc., Kaiser Aluminum Corporation, Hydro and Sapa Group.

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