Aluminum use in autos advances

Aluminum use in autos advances

Association study foresees vehicles using 16% more aluminum by 2028.

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August 9, 2017
Recycling Today Staff
Lightweighting Manufacturing Materials

Automakers will continue to increase their use of aluminum in new car and truck construction at a faster pace than any time in history, concludes a study commissioned by the Aluminum Association and its Detroit-based Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG). The trend is likely to bring additional volumes and types of aluminum into scrap processing facilities in the approaching decades.

Total aluminum content is expected to grow from 397 pounds per vehicle (PPV) in 2015 to 565 PPV by 2028, representing 16 percent of total vehicle weight, according to a survey of automakers conducted by Michigan-based market research firm Ducker Worldwide.

“Aluminum remains the fastest growing automotive material over competing materials and is entering its most unprecedented growth phase since we’ve been tracking the shifting mix of automotive materials,” says Abey Abraham of Ducker Worldwide. “To further improve fuel economy, battery range, safety and overall driving performance, automakers no longer default to a single material and instead are pursuing a multi-material design approach where the best material is chosen for the best application. This design evolution is what’s driving aluminum’s increased market penetration in the auto sector.”

 Heidi Brock, president and CEO of the Arlington, Virginia-based Aluminum Association, says, “As our automotive customers embrace a multimaterial approach to new car and truck design, that directly translates to increased amounts of aluminum. On top of 40 years of uninterrupted growth, the aluminum industry is experiencing a level of sustained growth not seen before in any market or product sector.”

Adds Brock, “The aluminum industry invested or committed more than $2 billion to ensure increased capacity in the U.S. since 2013, and the industry is prepared to continue such investments in domestic manufacturing jobs as demand continues to grow.”

The study finds that total aluminum content in North American light vehicles will increase to nearly 4.5 million tons (9 billion pounds), averaging 466 PPV by 2020, an increase of 69 pounds from 2015. Aluminum parts will more than double with aluminum hoods expected to reach 71% penetration (up from 50% currently). About 50% of total aluminum content growth from 2015 to 2020 will be driven by closures, crash management systems, steering knuckles, and structural vacuum die cast parts. Aluminum vacuum die castings are expected to grow from less than three PPV today to 14 PPV by 2020. The average passenger car will contain 362 pounds of aluminum and the average light truck will contain 523 pounds of aluminum by 2020.

Ducker projects total aluminum content growing to 565 PPV (16% of vehicle mass) by 2028 with nearly 25% of vehicles having partial aluminum body components. More than 2 million of those vehicles will be pickup trucks and 400,000 will have plug-in hybrid or zero-emissions powertrains.

Since 1996, the ATG has commissioned Ducker Worldwide to conduct periodic surveys of automakers. This year’s “Aluminum Content in North American Light Vehicles 2016 To 2028” study is based on an analysis relying primarily on in-person interviews with automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers, as well as data obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the Center for Automotive Research.

More details on the study can be found on this web page.