More Aluminum on Tap for Future Cars
Carmakers have been using an increasing amount of aluminum in recent years to help keep vehicle weight in check as the size of new models continues to grow, due in large part to the industry switch from cars to SUV/crossover vehicles and pickup trucks.
2021 Ford Bronco (Image: Ford)
Since 2016, vehicles have added about 32 lbs of mass. During this time, aluminum content per vehicle has jumped by 62 lbs, according to a new report from DuckerFrontier. Recent wins include applications in the Jeep Gladiator and upcoming Ford Bronco.
And the trend is expected to continue through at least 2030.
Aluminum content is projected to grow 12% to 514 lbs per vehicle (PPV) and 24% by 2030 to 570 PPV, according to the report, which was sponsored by the Aluminum Assn.
The authors attribute the growth to aluminum’s growing use in vehicle closures, body-in-white parts and chassis applications.
Lightweight closures are expected to continue to lead the way. Such components are expected to account for an additional 14 PPV of aluminum, growing from 59 lbs today to 73 lbs in 2026.
Doors represent the single highest net growth application of aluminum with penetration rates projected to jump from 21% today to 30% by 2026, according to the report. At that time, aluminum hood penetration is expected to reach 81% and liftgates/tailgates 44%.
New electric vehicle platforms also are expected to use generous amounts of aluminum sheet, extrusions, and castings for mass savings to achieve driving range targets, DuckerFrontier says.
“As electric vehicles become more widely available, greater aluminum use to extend range and help offset battery weight and cost will ensure consumers will still be able to choose high performing cars and trucks that are safe, fun to drive and better for the protection of the environment,” says Ganesh Panneer, chair of the Aluminum Transportation Group and vice president and general manager for Novelis North America.
One key application aluminum is vying for is battery cases. Novelis and other aluminum suppliers are developing modules that they say can provide weight and performance benefits over steel.
If aluminum-intensive cars are ever to become more than an occasional curiosity, automakers may have to give up their weld shops.
While aluminum vs. steel is getting more contentious in the world of light-duty trucks, when it comes to creating structures, the heavy-duty truck people know something important about strength and mass.
DaimlerChrysler's decision to scrap the front- drive LH line and replace it with the rear-drive LX large car platform is very astute.