Role of Steel in Future Automotive Applications

March 1, 2012

As automakers work to reduce mass and satisfy new fuel-economy requirements, amid increased demands for improved performance and reduced emissions, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) stresses the role that new grades of steel will play in vehicles of the future. According to SMDI, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, industry research finds that newly developed grades of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) significantly outperform competing materials for current and future automotive applications.

“The mass of a typical light-duty vehicle comprises about 60 percent steel, says SMDI vice president, automotive applications Ron Krupitzer. “Independent research shows that AHSS represents the fastest growing material in automotive applications.”

According to SMDI, although steel has als been used in vehicles, the material continues to evolve, as evidenced by new grades of AHSS. Krupitzer notes that AHSS were first introduced for use in vehicles in the mid-1990s. In May 2011, the WorldAutoSteel FutureSteelVehicle project introduced 20 new AHSS grades that are three to five times stronger than those developed in the mid-’90s.

Krupitzer also notes that advances in manufacturing processes have increased the mass savings achievable with AHSS by 35 percent, keeping steel in the ballpark with aluminum. And, he adds, when considering a vehicle’s life cycle emissions, steel provides considerable benefits over competing materials.

SMDI stresses the need to shift the basis of vehicle-emissions regulations from tailpipe-only emissions to life cycle, which includes material and vehicle production, driving and end-of-life-recycling. According to Krupitzer, most alternative materials generate emissions during their manufacture that are five to 20 times greater than those generated by steelmaking. And, as tailpipe emissions are reduced through the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles, manufacturing emissions become an increasingly larger part of the environmental equation. 



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Technologies: Materials


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