Global automakers are focusing on producing lighter and more fuel-efficient vehicles by utilizing alternative materials such as aluminum, magnesium, and plastic. Steelmakers, in response, are trying to reduce the weight of their products so that their profits are not affected by the new trend in the auto industry.
According to industry sources, ArcelorMittal is in pursuit of the goal by means of new techniques like laser-welded blanks and hot stamping. Products based on the techniques are expected to be 20 percent lighter in weight than the others, yet available at the same prices. The steelmaker has already finished weight reduction processes for products to be used in pick-up trucks.
Last year, Ford decided to adopt an aluminum body for the F-150, and many others in the industry are following it now. In this context, Norsk Hydro, a Norwegian energy company and aluminum material manufacturer, is planning to invest 130 million euros so as to quadruple its annual aluminum production volume to 200,000 tons next year.
Magnesium is another alternative material enjoying more and more popularity these days. Magnesium is characterized by its weight being about one-fifth that of steel and two-thirds of aluminum’s. Renault Samsung Motors’ SM7 Nova uses POSCO’s magnesium plate at the point where the rear power seat and the trunk are in contact with each other. It is the first time where a magnesium plate is used in a vehicle body.
The Hyundai Motor Group, in the meantime, is planning to use more advanced high strength steel (AHSS) and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP) to the same end. Compared to general steel sheets, AHSS has double strength but is about 10 percent lighter in weight. The ratio of AHSS has been increased to 51.5 percent for the new Genesis, while the new Sorento adopts CFRP for its wide panoramic sunroof. The weight of the material is approximately one-fourth of that of steel, but the former is about 10 times stronger than the latter. The same material is found in the BMW i8, too.