Aluminum Seen as Key to High-Mileage Car of the Future
LINTHICUM, Md.--Seventy-three percent of automotive professionals responding to a WardsAuto survey conducted earlier this year rated aluminum as the material that they consider most helpful in meeting the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) fuel standards announced by President Obama and EPA on July 29. The survey's 1093 respondents rated aluminum ahead of plastics, carbon fiber composites, and three other categories of materials: elastomers and fiber-reinforcement; advanced high strength steel; and magnesium. Sponsored by DuPont, the survey of auto industry challenges was conducted by Paramount Research using an online methodology.
"Aluminum has a strength-to-weight ratio that meets engineering and safety needs, is durable, and is a material that designers are comfortable working with," said Matthew Dionne, president of Sapa Extrusions' North America unit. "The need to increase mileage is driving auto makers' creativity, so you're seeing aluminum move from relatively simple uses, like seat tracks and brackets, to more sophisticated structural applications. And advances in fabrication and finishing are moving aluminum parts from internal, functional uses to external applications that are visible to the consumer."
Sapa Extrusions has been working with vehicle producers for decades to design and manufacture strong, lightweight parts, including components on new hybrid and electric vehicles (EV). The company has also been involved in shaping the vehicle of the future through its participation in the SuperLIGHT-CAR project in Europe. The objective of the four-year project was to deliver the technologies and design concepts that would allow up to 30 percent weight reduction in the C-class car models of the future generations, while respecting the very demanding cost restrictions of such popular models. The project was managed by Volkswagen, and included Volvo, Daimler, Porsche Engineering Group and a number of other companies, organizations, and universities.
"We are working with design engineers to show them new techniques for extruding and alloying aluminum that let them use it in entirely new automotive applications, and that will put the CAFE standards within reach," said Dionne. "Intricate extrusions are helping reduce the number of parts and fasteners used, and that reduces weight and speeds assembly."
The new CAFE standard calls for auto manufacturers to achieve a combined average of at least 54.5 miles per gallon across all of their new car and light-duty truck lines manufactured in 2025 and beyond. The new standard is up from 35.5 mpg for 2016, a goal that was set in 2009. The 2025 goal marks the largest mandatory increase in fuel economy in American auto history.
The survey was sent to readers of WardsAuto and asked: "How would you rate each of the following materials based on their ability to help meet the new CAFE fuel economy standards? (please use a 5-point scale where 1 = 'not at all helpful' and 5 = 'very helpful')"
The largest segment of respondents--50%--indicated that they work for a systems, components, or parts manufacturer, and 36% indicated that they are employed by a vehicle manufacturer. While 48% of respondents indicated they work in engineering or design, 14% reported that they work in corporate management; and 11%, in quality, testing, or reliability.
Sapa Extrusions North America (www.sapagroup.com/na ) is a unit of Sapa AS, a 50/50 joint venture owned equally by Orkla ASA and Hydro ASA. In North America, Sapa provides a range of extruded aluminum capabilities and services, including supply sourcing, extrusion, finishing, and fabrication of components, as well as contract manufacturing services, for a variety of industries.
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