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That challenge comes from demanding fuel efficiency targets, which must be met at an affordable cost and without compromising safety standards
In recent years, the United States, Canada, the European Union (EU), and other regions and countries throughout the globe have all enacted tough new targets, which are set to take effect between 2015 and 2021. In some cases, there are still tougher follow-up targets. In the U.S. and Canada, the standards will have the effect of doubling the fuel economy of new passenger vehicles by 2025 compared with a 2009 baseline.
To aid automakers in achieving these new standards, ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading steel and mining company, has been developing new, lightweight solutions using a range of advanced high strength steels (AHSS) along with new structural designs that use these new steels most efficiently. Lightweighting with AHSS remains at the core of steel innovation – and is central to automotive advancements as well. These new steel solutions, when coupled with expected improvements in powertrain efficiency, can help automakers achieve these tough fuel efficiency targets at the lowest cost and at the lowest environmental impact – and they can be implemented without the need for major capital investment or new manufacturing infrastructure.
Recent years have seen a succession of breakthroughs in light steel projects. ArcelorMittal has 11 research laboratories located in Europe and North America, five of them devoted solely to developing next-generation products and solutions for our automotive customers. Through reverse engineering using the same computer-aided design tools operated by the world’s major automakers, we are able to define mechanical property targets that make virtually every individual part in a car’s body structure as light, as safe, and as cost-effective as possible. At any one time, up to 80 new steel grades are under development at ArcelorMittal, continually ensuring lighter, more sustainable steel for the future. No other material comes close to steel in new products or advancements which makes steel the most technologically advanced material for auto body construction.
Last fall, ArcelorMittal launched the S-in motion ® Steel PickUp solutions to reduce the average weight of the North American light truck fleet. Using currently available AHSS and press-hardenable steel (PHS) grades such as Usibor® 1500 and Ductibor® 500, these solutions can achieve a weight savings up to 174 kg (384 lbs), or 23 percent over the 2014 baseline truck. Reducing the average weight of a pick-up by this amount saves more than 14 grams of CO2-equivalent emissions per kilometer. Emerging grades will allow an additional weight savings of nearly 23 kg (50 lbs).
Our Steel PickUp complements the original S-in motion® program launched in 2010 which offers steel solutions for 63 parts of a typical C-segment vehicle and weight savings up to 22 percent.
Leveraging the strong S-in motion® brand and our reputation as a steel solutions provider, 13 of our automotive solution catalogues now fall under the S-in motion® umbrella including our battery electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles, the industry’s first laser-welded hot-stamped door ring, and the ultra lightweight steel door.
Environmental advantages of steel
The discussion around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is gaining importance. Automotive emissions regulations today ignore manufacturing emissions, focusing only on those from the tailpipe. In the steel industry, looking at a vehicle’s total lifecycle emissions — manufacturing, tailpipe and end-of-life recycling — is the only way to know whether GHG emissions are increased or lowered for a particular vehicle.
An important aspect of this work is demonstrating how steel-intensive vehicles result in lower total lifecycle GHG emissions than vehicles utilizing alternative materials. This is mainly because of steel’s low emissions during manufacturing, coupled with significant vehicle weight reduction achieved with today’s advanced steel grades and steel’s infinite recyclability and mature recycling infrastructure. Primary production of steel, including AHSS, produces one-fifth to one-twentieth the emissions of other materials. Steel’s lightweighting capability can get the fleet to its future fuel economy goals, eliminating any use phase advantages other materials may have. Finally, steel’s ease of recycling and the abundance, approaching 80 million tons of recycled steel annually, are unlikely to be matched by any other material. Under the proposed U.S. fuel economy regulations, these advantages will allow steel vehicles to present a lower total lifecycle GHG footprint than vehicles made of any other lightweight material.
ArcelorMittal is working closely with the industry and outside experts to better understand the life-cycle analysis of a steel vehicle and to design approaches for regulators to implement life-cycle considerations into future standards to avoid unintended consequence of increased emissions. Without a total lifecycle approach to automotive emissions, automotive designers and engineers are forced into solutions that may negatively impact the environment rather than improve it.
Material for the future
As automotive regulations for fuel economy and GHG tailpipe emissions continue to toughen, the race to build greener cars is accelerating for automakers. ArcelorMittal has championed automotive steel innovation and continues to lead the charge with dedicated global R&D and advancements in AHSS. These advanced automotive steels and steel solutions will not only produce the lowest cost green cars of the future, they will also produce the “greenest” green cars of the future. Steel’s proven past and promising future have solidified our place in the automotive industry today and in the future.
Brad Davey is chief commercial officer for ArcelorMittal North American Flat Roll. ArcelorMittal is the world’s largest steel and mining company and the number one worldwide supplier for automotive steels, with 17 percent of the global share.