Lightweight Materials Poised to Impact the Automotive Chassis Market
According to an International Energy Agency report published in 2019, the number of fuel-powered and electric vehicles in the world will double by 2050. This will further have a huge impact on carbon emission. To address this challenge, various OEMs are focusing on lowering the carbon emission by introducing various initiatives. One of the initiatives is to reduce vehicle weight, which will further help reduce the emission per vehicle.
The increasing weight of the vehicles is leading to reduction in efficiency and range, and consequently increasing carbon footprint. To reduce the increasing carbon footprint, there is a dire need to reduce the weight of the vehicles. To address this issue major OEMs are trying to reduce the weight of vehicles by employing various materials such as aluminum castings, carbon reinforced plastic fiber, high strength steel, and others. According to the United States Department of Energy, lightweight materials can decrease the weight of a vehicle by up to 10%, thus increasing the efficiency of the vehicle by 6–8% and reducing the carbon footprint. The chassis designed from metals such as steel and aluminum castings allows for high strength and durability needed for supporting the automotive parts such as shock absorber, vehicle frame and others.
The rise in green house emission has pressured the governments of various countries to impose tougher emission standards. This is further forcing the OEMs to invest in and research on light weight vehicles such as passenger light weight vehicle and commercial light weight vehicle. Honda Motor was awarded the “Automotive Excellence Award” in 2018 by Steel Market Development Institute for its innovation in designing a new chassis for light duty trucks made from high strength steel. These lightweight materials that can be used for the fabrication of chassis possess equal strength and durability like that of steel and aluminum.
Companies such as Lamborghini (Italy) and Huntsman (the U.S.) have collaborated and jointly invented a carbon resin chassis. Huntsman invested $279m in the project. Electric solar vehicles are being projected as the future vehicles due to the ever-increasing pollution levels from internal combustion engines. Lightweight chassis can be the future base structure for these vehicles, as electric vehicles eliminate the requirement of heavy driving parts. This will further give boost to safety and emission control devices without increasing the overall weight of vehicles.
The markets of the U.S., Europe, and China will see a significant rise in electric vehicles by 2025. The future applications of non-metallic chassis can be amphibious bikes and flying cars. The chassis made from lightweight material will become crucial in the automotive industry and is expected to be widely adopted in the short to medium term. Lightweight material applications will be majorly found in shock absorber, vehicle frame, aluminum casting and others. The U.S. and China are huge markets; and thus, have immense demand for lightweight materials, especially aluminum and aluminum castings. The market for high strength steel (HSS) and aluminum is anticipated to thrive due to relatively low cost and high tensile strength of these materials. Carbon reinforced plastic fiber (CFRP) and magnesium are anticipated to have relatively low demand due to their high cost and limited applications. The use of CFRP in automotive applications is still at an early stage and offers excellent potential for the future although this depends on significant reductions being achieved in terms of pricing.