One of the recurring topics on this blog is the automotive industry’s shifting focus to aluminum over steel. The big names have all expressed support for this as a means of increasing fuel efficiency through a lighter material, all without sacrificing strength or durability. But do we know just how much aluminum can improve the ever-important MPG specification?

The EDAG Group, the world’s leading independent engineering partner for the mobility industry, recently released findings from its study on the use of aluminum in cars. From the Manufacturing & Technology eJournal:

A new study released today shows that an all-aluminum vehicle can shed more than 40 percent body mass, boosting fuel economy by 18 percent when combined with secondary mass savings and other design changes. The study helps explain why car and truck makers are shifting away from steel to aluminum, and supports projections that aluminum-intensive vehicles will become more common in the marketplace with continued demand for more fuel efficient vehicles.

“Automakers are putting cars and trucks on a major diet to get better gas mileage, and are saying they’re reaching the limits of using advanced steels to lose weight.”

The research, conducted by EDAG Group and commissioned by the Aluminum in Transportation Group of the U.S. Aluminum Association, was presented today at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress during a panel discussion on advances in lower weight materials. It comes at a time when automotive aluminum use is at an all-time high, with automakers announcing plans to incorporate more of the metal into vehicle designs – doubling aluminum’s 2008 share of the automotive metals mix by 2025.

How much does 18 percent impact mileage? Think about it this way — if you have a 40 MPG hybrid, that will take your mileage up to about 48 MPG. If you’re driving a 25 MPG sedan, you can boost that up to 30 MPG. Now, factor that into the life cycle of a vehicle and the big picture becomes clearer.

For more details, the study is available to read at Drive Aluminum’s website.