Using aluminum in select automotive components could reduce vehicle body structure weight safely by as much as an additional 40% compared to today’s vehicles, according to a recent study by the University of Aachen (Germany) for the European Aluminium Association (EAA).
After producing the 40% upper limit figure, the study noted that in practice, additional aspects will have to be considered such as the joinability, the performance of the joints or nodes connecting the different components or the NVH performance. Therefore it may not be possible to fully exploit the indicated weight reduction potential of high strength aluminium alloys, the report cautioned. However, it also noted, similar restrictions may also apply to the substitution of ultra-high-strength steel grades for conventional steel grades.
The study found that weight reduction potential using high-strength steel was limited to an additional 11%; nearly 40% of the parts analyzed cannot be made thinner regardless of the grade of steel used.
Aluminum could provide total of about 525 pounds of additional weight savings, which could result in 2.7 more miles per gallon or a nearly 10% further improvement in fuel economy over a typical auto today. This can be done while maintaining—if not further improving—vehicle safety.