While plastic continues to turn up in more and more engine compartments, aluminum use is also increasing. In fact, a recent study claims that the use of automotive aluminum in North America is at an all-time high.
While plastic continues to turn up in more and more engine compartments, aluminum use is also increasing. In fact, a recent study conducted by Ducker Worldwide (Troy, MI) claims that the use of automotive aluminum in North America is at an all-time high. Aluminum accounted for 8.6 percent of vehicle curb weight in 2009 calendar year vehicles, up from just 2 percent in 1970 and 5.1 percent in 1990.
On a worldwide basis, the amount of aluminum content for light vehicles is 7.8 percent of the average worldwide light vehicle curb weight of 3,185 pounds in 2009. Content growth is predicted to continue at a rate of four to five pounds per vehicle, per year, and approach 300 pounds per vehicle worldwide in 2020.
“The data demonstrates that automakers continue to recognize the value of automotive aluminum,” says Buddy Stemple, chairman of the Auto & Light Truck Group at the Aluminum Association (Arlington, VA). “As automakers seek to innovate and differentiate themselves with more fuel-efficient cars and trucks with a reduced carbon footprint, the time to use advanced materials like aluminum is now.”
North America ranks as the world leader in aluminum penetration in cars, pickups, SUVs and minivans, where a net increase of more than eight pounds occurred between 2006 and 2009 calendar year vehicles. More than 50 vehicles produced in North America contain more than 10 percent aluminum content.
Honda and BMW are now the aluminum content leaders, replacing General Motors and Nissan. Both BMW and Honda use more than 340 pounds of aluminum per vehicle. According to Stemple, BMW, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen all increased the amount of aluminum content of their North American vehicles from 2006 to 2009.
On a component basis, the study cites engine blocks and steering knuckles with the largest increase in growth over the last three years, with penetration of aluminum blocks reaching nearly 70 percent – the largest driver of aluminum growth in this decade. In addition, more than 22 percent of vehicles currently made in the U.S. have aluminum hoods, an all-time record.
“As the future of the global automotive industry quickly shifts to more fuel-efficient products, vehicles around the world will be manufactured with a variety of solutions and powertrain improvements,” says Stemple. In fact, material experts and body engineers surveyed in the study expect 25 percent of fuel economy improvement to come from weight savings, while powertrain experts predict that 50 percent of the improvements will be the result of weight reduction.