In 2015, Ford’s F-150 was the first high-volume vehicle produced with an aluminum frame, reducing the F-150’s weight by 700 pounds. Since then, the need for strong, lightweight material is driving a significant increase in the use of hydroformed aluminum to make automobiles that are both fuel and cost efficient while retaining key safety features.
Aluminium International Today predicts that the use of aluminum in cars will increase by 30% over the next decade. The light weight of aluminum contributes to carbon dioxide reduction and fuel efficiency, playing a big part in helping manufacturers meet fuel economy and emissions regulations. Aluminum car parts can be both safer than steel and up to 50% lighter.
Lighter automobiles emit less carbon dioxide. Drive Aluminum.org promotes the use of aluminum in vehicles, noting that an aluminum-intensive vehicle can achieve up to a 20% reduction in total life-cycle energy consumption and up to a 17% reduction in carbon dioxide.
Making vehicles lighter reduces carbon dioxide emissions, but that is not the only environmentally friendly advantage of using aluminum. Aluminum is highly recyclable. The Aluminum Association reports that close to 90% of automotive aluminum scrap—more than a half-million tons a year—is recovered and recycled. As more vehicles are made with aluminum, more aluminum scrap will be available in the future. Producing a new vehicle from the recycled aluminum of an older vehicle prevents the need to use carbon-intensive processes to create aluminum in its primary form.
The Aluminum Association points out that because aluminum is lighter, it allows engineers to design thicker body panels without the corresponding weight increase. A lower weight vehicle has better acceleration, better braking, and better handling. In addition, lighter vehicles can haul and tow more because the engine isn’t carrying unneeded weight.
Aluminum also allows manufacturers to design new, effective safety features. Aluminum alloys designed for automobiles absorb twice as much energy during accidents. Larger crush zones can be designed without corresponding weight penalties. The aluminum is designed to absorb the impact and re-direct it away from the vehicle’s passengers.
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