The automotive market is in the midst of what some might call a revolution with more and more automakers making the switch to aluminum to improve fuel efficiency and lower vehicle weight. Carmakers are taking it seriously and numerous auto shops are already investing money to be able to repair vehicles with aluminum parts. Below, Todd Summe, Global Technology Director, Automotive for Novelis, answers a few questions about why this change is happening and how Novelis is leading the way.
What is driving demand for aluminum in the automotive industry?
A: Auto is the single fastest-growing market for aluminum flat rolled products (FRP) – and sustainability is the single biggest driver. Automakers are facing more demanding fuel economy and CO2 emissions standards around the world. In the U.S., for example, fuel efficiency standards now call for gas mileage in excess of 54 miles per gallon (4.36 L/100 km) by 2025. Lightweighting with aluminum is one of the best overall enablers of significant efficiency increases.
Which vehicles are using Novelis aluminum?
A: What’s exciting is that automakers are significantly expanding the use of aluminum in the automotive industry, especially for higher-volume vehicles, as well as expanding the type of components that are made with aluminum. More vehicles are also using aluminum in other parts of the vehicles as well. For example, the new Mercedes Benz CLA features Novelis aluminum, including an innovative alloy we created specifically for the automotive industry, which marks the first time aluminum has been used in the compact car segment in large-scale production. In addition, one of the largest expansions of the use of aluminum will be in vehicles’ primary structures, called the Body-in-White, saving weight and fuel while providing outstanding passenger safety. All told, Novelis aluminum is in more than 180 different models – that’s about 5 million vehicles produced each year that feature Novelis aluminum.
How are Novelis’ research and technology capabilities adding value for automakers?
A: Novelis has really been a pioneer in our work with the automotive industry. Working in close partnership with our customers to ensure our solutions meet their needs, we have developed a complete automotive technology package, including alloys, surface treatment systems, and structural bonding, lubrication, forming and joining technologies that are enabling automakers to increase their use of aluminum with existing production techniques. And to serve the growing demand, we have launched new automotive finishing lines at our facility in Oswego, New York, and we are nearing completion of a new plant in Changzhou, China – the first facility in China dedicated to producing aluminum sheet for the automotive industry.
What are some highlights of your team’s work over the last year?
A: Well, important milestones were the introduction of the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport – the world’s first all aluminum, full-sized sport utility vehicle – for which Novelis is the exclusive aluminum supplier. Novelis and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) have had a long-time partnership and together have really led the way for the use of aluminum for mass vehicle production. The new Range Rover model is 420 kg lighter than the previous model thanks to its all-aluminum body structure. In addition, JLR is targeting to make a Range Rover from 75 percent recycled content aluminum, and we developed a closed-loop agreement through which Novelis will recover all of the scrap from the automaker.
To learn more about how Novelis is helping to make vehicles more environmentally friendly, check out our 2013 Sustainability Report.