Aluminum-intensive vehicles impact the environment less than
lightweight steel cars and trucks, according to an Oak Ridge
National Laboratory (ORNL) study underwritten by the Aluminum
The key reason is
increased fuel-economy resulting from aluminum slashing vehicle
weight during the "use phase," the period when a car or truck
is on the road, according to the study, which was led by ONRL
researcher Sujit Das.
The Steel Market
Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the
Washington-based American Iron and Steel Institute, has
concerns about the study but is withholding comment until it
has more information about the research, SDMI president
Lawrence Kavanagh said. "Were going to make a very
rigorous academic and engineering assessment of both the
assumptions and the conclusions," Kavanagh told AMM
Sept. 20. "The devil is in the details."
Although aluminum is
lighter than steel,the production of primary aluminum requires
large amounts of electricity. But while lightweight steel
vehicles impact the environment less during their "production
phase"when steel for the cars and trucks is being
madethat lower initial impact is offset by higher energy
requirements and more carbon dioxide emissions during the use
phase for steel vehicles, the study said.
"As the U.S. works to
reduce dependence on foreign oil, promote clean energy and
combat climate change, this report definitively documents why
aluminum offers the most promise for cutting total
automotive-related carbon emissions and energy use," Das said
in a statement Sept. 19, the day results of the study were made
available to the public.
vehicle reduces mass by 28 percent and, during the use phase,
cuts energy consumption by 32 percent and reduces carbon
dioxide emissions by 29 percent, the study said.
In addition, an
aluminum-intensive vehicle reaches a "break-even" point, when
energy used during the production phase is offset by energy
saved while the vehicle is on the road, after 9,300 miles
compared with 30,000 miles for a lightweight steel vehicle, the
Association cheered the results, noting that most vehicles in
the United States are driven more than 9,300 miles in their
first year on the road.
"This study adds even
more evidence that switching car bodies from steel to aluminum
is the next logical step for carmakers to take in the drive to
reduce emissions," Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum
Associations Transportation Group and automotive
marketing director for Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc., said in a
statement, adding that aluminum has already been shown to be
safe, durable and cost-effective for car bodies. "Now ORNL has
shown that aluminum is better than steel on a full lifecycle
CO2 basis. That is the icing on the cake."
ONRL is managed and operated for the U.S. Department of
Energy by UT-Battelle LLC, a nonprofit, 50-50 limited liability
partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle
Memorial Institute, according to its website.