Article by: Scott Anderson, Contributing Editor
If there’s one thing (and it may be the only thing) that the aluminum and steel industries agree upon, it’s this: We’re leaving the steel era and entering an age of automotive material options, where there are combinations of different materials, not just one dominant material. Just how long this era lasts, and ultimately how sustainable it will be for the planet, are among the many other points of contention.
The 2015 North American Light Vehicle Aluminum Content Study, researched by the consulting group Ducker Worldwide (ducker.com), estimates that aluminum sheet for body and closure parts will reach 4-billion pounds by 2025. By then, aluminum hood penetration will reach 85% and doors will reach 46%; complete bodies will reach 18%, from less than 1% today. This year, vehicle aluminum con-sumption will increase by 28% over 2012. That would set a record . . . by about a billion pounds.
What’s driving the push toward aluminum versus steel is hardly a mystery. By the 2025 model year, federal Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards will require 54.5 miles per gallon for fleets, with light trucks required to reach 32 mpg. That means the average vehicle will need to shed between 150 to 200 pounds from today’s levels. And the generally lighter weight aluminum will help OEMs who would otherwise choose steel, to think twice.