In the past week, the auto industry has made significant strides to increase its usage of aluminum in manufacturing. Perhaps this shouldn’t be a surprise, as this was a theme of Aluminum Week 2012 and Tesla’s aluminum-body Model S won Car Of The Year from both Motor Trend and Automobile Magazine. However, it’s a good sign at the aluminum industry’s growing importance for car manufacturing.
One key indicator of this comes from global aluminum company Novelis. Novelis just announced expansion plans for an aluminum auto sheet plant in China. Novelis is recognized as a leader in rolled aluminum and its products are used in everything from beverage cans (that Coke you’re drinking? Novelis produced the can) to smartphone components to car components. From PR Newswire via Herald Online:
Novelis, the world leader in aluminum rolling and recycling, officially broke ground today on the company’s first aluminum manufacturing plant in China. The $100 million investment is designed to meet the rapidly growing demand for rolled aluminum used in the design of a new generation of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
The wholly owned plant under construction in Changzhou in the Jiangsu Province, will have a capacity of 120,000 metric tons per year, further strengthening Novelis’ position as the world’s largest producer of aluminum sheet products used to create vehicle structures and body panels. Startup of the new facility, the industry’s first automotive sheet plant in China, is planned for late 2014.
With the aluminum industry still glowing from Tesla’s award-winning Model S, it’s likely that you’ll see further direct investment in aluminum-based auto manufacturing in the future.
Onward and upward!
The auto industry’s been one of the biggest topics of this blog over the past few months, but we haven’t gone too much into the specifics — it’s just known that the auto industry has seen aluminum as part of its path to lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
GM, however, offered more details about how it’s enabling greater use of aluminum in its manufacturing process. In particular, it has to do with the way the material is welded, as traditionally aluminum is difficult to weld. From GM’s press release:
“GM’s new resistance spot welding process uses a patented multi-ring domed electrode that does what smooth electrodes are unreliable at doing – welding aluminum to aluminum. By using this process GM expects to eliminate nearly two pounds of rivets from aluminum body parts such as hoods, liftgates and doors.
Spot welding uses two opposing electrode pincers to compress and fuse pieces of metal together, using an electrical current to create intense heat to form a weld. The process is inexpensive, fast and reliable, but until now, not robust for use on aluminum in today’s manufacturing environment. GM’s new welding technique works on sheet, extruded and cast aluminum because GM’s proprietary multi-ring domed electrode head disrupts the oxide on aluminum’s surface to enable a stronger weld.”
This process has already been used on the hood of the Cadillac CTS-V and the liftgate of the Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon (hybrid editions). We’ll see more of this in 2013, thus promoting greater fuel efficiency and moving towards a better experience from manufacturers to motorists.
Ferrari has launched the second teaser video of the 620, their 599 replacement.
In the video, there are quite a few processes between hot, molten aluminum alloy being poured into forms and an actual finished car: stamping, lamination, extrusion, etc.
It is clear that Ferrari used a lot of the stuff to save weight wherever they could.
According to autoevolution’s original article, “Aluminum was used as an alternative to carbon fiber because Ferrari wanted to keep the cost of their new GT down. Besides that, carbon fiber is difficult to fix in case of an accident.”
The article projects growth through 2025 given consumer preference and the upcoming federal CAFE regulations that will vastly increase the miles-per-gallon requirements and CO2 emissions restrictions of all North American light vehicles.
Click here to read the original article and learn more about the use of aluminum for hybrid cars.