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Automakers Accelerating Transition to Aluminum to Increase Fuel Efficiency, Reduce Emissions and Meet Tough, New Standards Announced Today

As the Obama Administration today announced the draft fuel economy and emissions standards for passenger cars and light trucks, the following statement was issued by Randall Scheps, Chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group:

“Today’s announcement on proposed fuel economy and emission standards is a major milestone for the auto industry, forward-thinking suppliers and the consumers we serve. One thing is clear:  a transition to strong, affordable and carbon-reducing materials like aluminum is already underway that will enable cars and trucks to get lighter – not necessarily smaller – and more fuel efficient; a good thing for consumers and the environment. Replacing heavy steel with light, strong aluminum in the average family sedan can improve mileage by 2.7 miles per gallon or more than 10 percent without sacrificing safety or comfort. That goes a long way toward meeting the new targets.

As automakers apply aluminum to reduce the weight of their vehicles, the focus is increasingly toward the system cost, which allows aluminum to compete successfully with other materials because of the advantages it brings in primary and secondary weight savings, fuel savings, structural performance and design flexibility. Secondary cost savings that come from using auto aluminum can offset cost premiums helping make it a more cost-effective solution.

In fact, a recent survey of automakers by Ducker Worldwide confirms that, in anticipation of stricter federal fuel economy and emissions requirements, automakers are accelerating their shift away from steel to the greater use of advanced, highly-crash absorbent aluminum alloys in new car and light truck construction. Since lighter vehicles get better fuel economy with fewer emissions, aluminum is already the leading material in the engine and wheel markets and is fast-gaining market share in hoods, trunks and doors. Thirty percent of all car hoods are aluminum today and that number will grow to nearly 50 percent by 2020.

The survey also shows continued growth in automakers’ overall use of aluminum will reach an all-time high in 2012 of 343 lbs. per vehicle and predicts aluminum will double its share of the average automotive materials mix by 2025. Just this week, a Honda R&D executive interviewed by stated, ‘Based on our current understanding, we believe we’re approaching the practical limits of the application of high-strength steels…we have a very clear road map to 2025 on how we’re going to mature our body technologies and we believe we will introduce our technological advances methodically.’

Additionally, a 2010 lifecycle CO2 study by the Magnesium Front End Research Development (MFRED) project found that aluminum has the smallest overall carbon footprint for total lifecycle emissions compared to competing materials including steel.

The auto industry is at a pivotal point when it comes to the materials that make up the American automobile. We are seeing the beginnings of a large scale conversion from heavy steel to low weight, high-strength aluminum, and the public and the planet will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this materials leap forward.”

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About the Aluminum Transportation Group
The Aluminum Association Inc.’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG), communicates the benefits of aluminum in ground transportation applications to help accelerate its penetration through research programs and related outreach activities. The ATG’s mission is to serve member companies and act as a central resource for the automotive and commercial vehicle industries on aluminum issues. Members of the ATG include:  Alcoa Inc., Novelis Inc., Alcan Inc, Aluminum Precision Products Inc., Hydro, Kaiser Aluminum Corporation and Sapa Group.

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