Aluminum industry sees gains in commercial vehicle lightweighting

Feb 29, 2012 | 07:00 PM | John Ambrosia

Tags  lightweighting, automotive aluminum, aluminum auto parts, John Ambrosia

Talk about aluminum lightweighting of vehicles tends to center on passenger cars and light trucks. However, aluminum has experienced more than 30 years of continual growth in commercial applications, driven largely by payload considerations.

The use of aluminum applications in commercial vehicles continues to rise steadily, with more than 65 percent of the tractor-trailer market adopting aluminum wheels today compared with 60 years ago, for example. The average Class 8 truck today uses more than 1,000 pounds of aluminum, and with additional emerging applications, vehicle weight could be reduced by up to 3,300 pounds. By exploring the advantages of lightweighting with aluminum, truck owners and operators can experience the real value and benefits a lighter vehicle has to offer, aluminum industry advocates say.

Overall, the amount of aluminum in vehicles is not only increasing, but also spreading across market segments and application types due to the many cost and fuel economy benefits that lightweight aluminum manufacturers claim to offer.

With growing pressure for more energy-efficient vehicles and lower operating costs, the trucking industry is dealing with demands for improved fuel economy, reduced emissions and additional increases in payload capacity.

Commercial trucks account for a growing portion of overall U.S. fuel consumption and, as such, represent a prime opportunity for lightweighting, said Doug Richman, vice president of engineering and technology at Kaiser Aluminum Corp., who also serves on the executive and technical committees of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG).

Total fuel consumption in the United States has doubled to 12 billion barrels of fuel per day from 6 billion barrels in the early 1970s, and commercial vehicles’ share of that total has grown to 25 percent from 15 percent, Richman said. “For that reason, it’s become far more important to address fuel consumption in the heavy-duty truck sector.”....





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