Aluminium, Empowering Auto Industry’s Commitment Towards Low Carbon Footprint

Right from autos to cars and buses, to trucks, aluminium has constantly helped revolutionize the modern transport. The auto industry has been one of the key consumers of aluminium and currently constitutes for 27% of the total aluminium consumption.

Photo Credit : Reuters,

Evolution of aluminium in the automotive industry- History and Landscape 

Over the years, aluminium has become an integral part in the manufacturing of vehicles. Ever since it was first used in a sports car in 1899[1], aluminium has slowly but steadily managed to gain its foothold in the auto industry. Right from autos to cars and buses, to trucks, aluminium has constantly helped revolutionize modern transport. The auto industry has been one of the key consumers of aluminium and currently constitutes for 27% of the total aluminium consumption. [2]  According to the latest Drucker survey of automakers, aluminium is the fastest-growing automotive material in comparison to other materials.[3] This sector has seen a shift in the mix of materials that go into the making of a vehicle and aluminium today has now become a key ingredient of that mix.

Increasing use of aluminium in the automotive industry

The applications of aluminium have evolved and increased in the past few decades. From just external applications like luggage carriers, footrest it also started being used internally in engines and brakes. Luxury cars these days also have seen a higher percentage of aluminium mix in their manufacturing processes. Automakers are now switching to an all aluminium design for commercial vehicles to achieve fuel efficiency. There are various applications of aluminium in the auto industry: 

External applications: Aluminium can be found in the vehicle body such us roof, outer hood, side panels, doors, trunk lid & has various other external applications. Aluminium extrusions with right alloys mix are increasingly used in bumpers to protect the external body.  For aesthetic requirements, aluminium is used in tailgates and the roof rails. 

Internal applications: Aluminium is also a key component inside the vehicle. It can be used in steering assembly, suspension, brake component, air conditioning application etc.  A critical application such as fuel distribution pipes, engine cover, housing for brakes & ABS is also made of aluminium alloys. Nowadays the longitudinal & dashboard beam is also replaced by aluminium due to less weight and for higher mileage.

This rise in consumption of aluminium in the automotive industry can be attributed to increasing pollution with rising automotive production, to increase the fuel- efficiency, and to reduce the CO2 emissions.

Properties of aluminium leading to lower carbon footprint in auto industry

The reason aluminium has become an integral part of the automotive sector is for the fact that aluminium has many properties that are unmatched. When compared to other metals, aluminium is highly superior, sustainable and is, therefore, the material of choice in this industry. Below are the few properties of this green metal that is empowering the world to leave a lower carbon footprint: 

Recyclability: Automotive aluminium scrap every year is recycled and reused up to the tune of 90%. [4]. This, easily recyclable, green metal saves a huge amount of energy required for producing primary metal. The secondary stream of aluminium is now being prioritized over other metals due to its high recyclability rate. This environment-friendly metal is the perfect alternative to metals that have a detrimental impact on the environment.  More and more automakers are switching to aluminium as consumers are making conscious choices towards sustainable living.  

Light weight:  By virtue of being lightweight, aluminium meets the criteria of fuel-efficiency in vehicles. A combination of strength and lightweight of aluminium enables automobiles to achieve greater fuel efficiency while minimizing the carbon emissions. Fuel-saving in commercial vehicles too reduces the carbon footprint. 20 Kg of CO2 is saved by merely using 1 kg of aluminium in the vehicle. [5] Lighter vehicles enable carriage of more goods and therefore lesser trips.  Newer technologies and techniques to minimize vehicle weight have encouraged the auto industry to switch to greener metals like aluminium.

Corrosion-resistant: Aluminium compared to other metals is corrosion resistant. The auto industry is always on the lookout for materials that increase the life span of the vehicle without compromising on their quality. Aluminium, therefore, becomes a natural choice for this industry. The harmful effects of corrosion are negated and it enhances the life of the vehicle. It also simultaneously reduces the need for energy and materials to upgrade and maintain the vehicle. 

Conclusion & Way forward for aluminium in the auto industry 

The electric vehicles revolution has brought about a paradigm shift in the manufacturing of vehicles. With more countries opting for electric vehicles, the need to find materials that support this technology is increasing. To achieve a certain driving range for a given electric vehicle battery size, weight reduction of the vehicle is imperative. Aluminium not only reduces the weight of the vehicle but also complements the electric vehicles in reducing the carbon footprint in the world. According to CRU, the demand for aluminium to be adopted in electric vehicles is likely to increase 10 times by 2030. [6]

With a positive shift in reducing the carbon footprint in the industry, automakers now depend on metals like aluminium to empower this revolution. One cannot imagine the future of the automotive industry without the presence of aluminium and this demand is only set to increase in the coming years. 







Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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