high-strength steels (AHSS) are now the fastest-growing
materials used in automotive production, and the industry has
doubled the number of lightweight grades it produces over the
past 10 yearsincluding one that is lighter than plastic,
John Surma said on behalf of the Steel Market Development
The 2013 North American Car and
Truck of the Year award winnersthe Cadillac ATS and Dodge
Ram 1500"both feature an extensive amount of these new
steels," Surma, chairman and chief executive officer of
Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp., said during an Automotive
Press Association event April 11.
Meanwhile, the 2013 Ford Fusion
features the worlds first hydroformed steel tube used as
a B-pillar, and the 2013 Kia Optima, named Road &
Travel Magazines International Car of the Year, is
made with new steel grades to enhance structural integrity,
stiffness and ride quality, Surma said.
Similarly, Chevrolets 2014
Silverado 1500 full-size pickup truck features AHSS in its main
rails and cross members, with hydroformed elements for reduced
mass and greater strength, and nearly two-thirds of the truck
cab structure is made from AHSS, Surma said.
steel grades are as much as five times stronger than their
predecessors and can yield parts that are as much as 39 percent
lighter than their traditional counterparts. Such advances will
be key to reaching the goal of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025,
In addition, the higher
formability of AHSS gives auto designers more latitude to
develop weight-reducing shapes and aerodynamic designs, which
aid in achieving greater fuel economy, Surma said. AHSS also
can help improve structural safety.
In February 2013, the Steel
Market Development Institute, the Auto/Steel Partnership and
the U.S. Automotive Materials Partnership "began an aggressive
collaborative project" with the U.S. Energy Department, five
universities and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to
develop integrated computer models that will help create the
next generation of advanced steel grades, Surma said.
Today, AHSS is successfully used
in vehicle skeletons and chassis and body in white. The next
step is closures, he said.
"Let me throw in one last
lightweighting fact," Surma added. "There is a
current-production-model vehicle that has a plastic fuel tank.
The SMDI team saw this particular part as a design challenge.
The result? A steel tank that is 9- to 16-percent lighter than
the plastic version on the car and cost-neutral," he said.
"Steel lighter than plastic: Im pretty sure that is not a
headline you were expecting to hear from me today, but feel
free to use it in your publications. Our industry will not