The conventional vehicles were heavier owing to large number of mechanical, safety, and electronic systems that are present in the car. The first generation vehicles were light in weight such as in 96, Toyota Corolla weighed nearly 720 Kg, whereas now its weighs nearly 1240 Kg this is a tremendous amount of increase in the weight. In 38, Volkswagen Passat weighted 915 Kg and now its weighs nearly 1567 Kg. The increase in weight had an adverse impact on the range as well as on the emissions from the vehicle. Hence now, the OEM’s are focused towards reducing the weight of the vehicle, increasing the vehicle range, and reducing the vehicle emission..
Aluminum usage in the vehicle application has restored the concept of weight reduction in the vehicle. The amount of aluminum used in the vehicles is going to increase in the future. Steel was the only metal used by most of the automakers such as Tesla, Audi, Ford and others however, now they are shifting their focus towards aluminum because of its low cost and tensile strength. Now the OEM’s are looking forward to build an aluminum intensive vehicle.
Regulations for increasing the fuel economy and lowering the emission is driving the adoption of aluminum in the vehicles. Hence, OEM’s are planning to adopt aluminum for their complete fleet to meet the regulation requirements. There are other factors which are also responsible for the usage of aluminum such as crash impact. This further helps the OEM to determine the usage of aluminum inside the vehicle to make it safe from the crash.
The application of aluminum depends on the vehicle segment. Aluminum can find applications in the bumper, body, suspension, closure sections, engine, intercoolers, radiators, bonnets, and others. All these application will comprise of 70% aluminum to be utilized inside the vehicle.
It is evident from Tesla Model S that aluminum is a popular choice of luxury vehicles. OEM’s such as Honda, Nissan, Toyota, and other employ aluminum for their engine blocks and very less is employed for the other body parts. However, the companies are not planning to use a lot of the aluminum in all the applications mentioned above.
The supplier needs to gear up to meet the increase in demand for aluminum.. Novelis and Alcoa are two of the biggest suppliers of aluminum in the automotive industry. Novelis specializes in rolled aluminum sheet and offers customized product based on the demand. Whereas, Alcoa specializes in the flat sheet production. The company has launched a new technology called Micromill which further helps to produce approximately 20 sheet every minute.
In terms of weight reduction, aluminum provides a lot of improvements but at the same time steel grades are giving a challenge to the widespread adoption of aluminum. The steel grades showcases positive result with respect the evaluation of welding, provides bendability with high level and enables treatment of phosphate. In addition, the OEMs need to bear the change in tooling cost for aluminum and hence it is expected that replacement cost will be higher for the end users.