As environmental pressure on car makers grows, they are increasingly turning to light weight materials to reduce their tailpipe emissions. For a time this encourages car makers to turn to aluminium, which is much lighter, though more expensive, than steel. However, steelmakers have responded by developing new high strength steels which can reduce be used in light-weighting cars. This seems to be allowing steel to regain some market share in this sector.
SBB 9 June Steel is winning an increasing share of automotive construction as lighter-weight steels are developed. This is because their cost and the efficiency of using such steels on car production lines compares favourably with materials like carbon and glass fibre, Steel Business Briefing learns from steelmakers and automotive experts attending a Steel in Cars and Trucks conference in Salzburg.
The European car industry is especially dependent on innovations in lighter steel products in competing with foreign car makers entering the market, a researcher for German carmaker Volkswagen notes.
Volkswagen has replaced plastic with lightweight steel for the rear wings of its 2011 Beetle model, and the company’s new Passat has reduced its total weight by the more intensive use of lightweight steel, a Volkswagen research spokesperson notes.
The proportion of steel used in the production of passenger cars has not significantly decreased compared to five years ago, remaining at around 60%, a spokesperson for the German steel federation, Wirtschaftsvereinigung Stahl, remarks to SBB. Costs for carbon and glass fibre substitutes remain high, and also it is much easier to repair steel than other materials, he adds.