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Dec 07, 2012 | 06:13 PM

Cheaper, safer, greener

Tags  steel, aluminum, competitive materials, automotive market, Steel Market Development Instititute, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, EDAG, Inc. George Washington University

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It’s no secret that steel has—and has had—the inside track when it comes to affordability among the handful of metals and materials racing full throttle to win a larger share of the automotive market. Even so, news to that effect is always welcome, particularly to the collective ears of Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), which rarely misses a chance to tout the attributes of the material it was formed to promote.

This time around, the Washington, D.C.-based National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) did it for them in the form of a recently released report titled Mass Reduction for Light-Duty Vehicles for Model Years 2017-2025. The report, prepared by EDAG, Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich.; George Washington University, Washington, D.C.; and Electricore Inc., Valencia, Calif., examined mid-size body, chassis and interior vehicle systems and determined that basic lightweighting costs $0.46 per pound of weight saved ($1.02 per kilogram) using advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) compared with $1.55 per pound ($3.41 per kilogram) using aluminum.

"Cost models have traditionally associated a significant cost penalty with alternative materials and this NHTSA report confirms this while demonstrating advanced high-strength steels provide significant mass reduction at the lowest possible cost," Lawrence "Larry" W. Kavanagh, SMDI president said in a statement." This is significant, as automakers have the challenging task of developing affordable vehicles that meet new and tightening regulations," he added.

Steel also came through with flying colors on the safety front. George Washington University verified what the SMDI described as the "excellent crash performance" of the lightweight vehicle design in simulated New Car Assessment Program, Frontal, Lateral Moving Deformable Barrier, and Lateral Pole tests in addition to the International Institute for Highway’s Safety Roof and Front Offset tests.

Besides being affordable and safety-minded, steel’s "green" pedigree drew front-page attention from Green Car Journal, a leading online publication, which named the Ford Fusion its 2013 Green Car of the Year® at the recent Los Angeles Auto Show. Inner Circle is not a regular reader but the SMDI evidently is and wasted no time issuing a press release on the Fusion’s selection.

"This is another great example of how steel offers the complete package of safety, lightweighting, affordability and sustainability that’s needed to satisfy evolving industry regulations and consumer preferences," Ron Krupitzer, vice president automotive market, SMDI, told Inner Circle. He noted along the way that the 2013 Ford Fusion was designed with customer safety in mind, pointing out that a variety of advanced high-strength steels, such as boron-alloyed grades, were used to increase the vehicle’s body strength by 10 percent over its predecessor. The Fusion is also the first vehicle to use steel hydroformed tubular B-pillars, which contribute to its improved side-impact performance, mass reduction and roof strength. Add to that a hydroformed A-pillar roof rail, which Krupitzer said reduced costs while improving the Fusion’s crash performance, and you’ve got a winning car.

The SMDI is a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, Washington, D.C. Investors include AK Steel Corp., ArcelorMittal Dofasco, ArcelorMittal USA LLC, Nucor Corp., Severstal North America Inc., ThyssenKrupp Steel USA, LLC and U.S. Steel Corp.


Jo Isenberg

Jo Isenberg is executive editor of AMM. She has been covering the steel industry for over 30 years and has served as editor of AMM for the last 11 years – the most successful decade in the publication’s long history.