Aluminum content in North American vehicles, as measured by average
pounds in use per car/light truck, has risen for over 35 consecutive
years. By 2010, aluminum content in North American vehicles
averaged roughly 350 lbs. and globally was the second
most-utilized material in light vehicles.
Automakers have turned to aluminum for the many advantages it
confers, including weight savings, recyclability, parts
consolidation, and crashworthiness. Below are some facts about
aluminum and the automotive industry.
From 1994 through 2008, the transportation
industry represented the largest end-use market for
aluminumwith light vehicles (cars and trucks) accounting for the
bulk of those shipments. The year 2009, however, marked the worst year
for auto sales since 1982 and, as such, transportation applications
accounted for only 23.7 percent of all aluminum shipments4.22
billion pounds in all. Nonetheless, aluminum continued to increase its
penetration into the light vehicle market in applications ranging
from wheels to frames to suspension components, brake calipers, engine
blocks, cylinder heads, body panels, and bumpers.
More than 85 percent of post-consumer automotive aluminum
scrap, and virtually all post-manufacturing automotive aluminum scrap,
is recycled. A study by Ducker Worldwide indicates that, among North
American vehicles, 57 percent of of all automotive aluminum was sourced
from recycled metal. Aluminum has "sustained recyclability"which
means it can be recycled again and again without a decline in material
performance or quality. Secondary aluminum requires just 5 percent of
the energy needed to produce primary aluminum and generates just 5
percent of the emissions. Aluminum recycling is a successful enterprise
without the need for government incentives or regulation.
Today, aluminum accounts for approximately 10 percent of a
vehicle's total weight, but it represents 35-50 percent of the total
material scrap value at the end of its useful life. Aluminum has
one-third the density of steel, which means a component can be 1.5 times
thicker than a steel version while remaining 50 percent lighter. It can
absorb twice as much energy as steel at the same weight. It is corrosion
resistant, unlike steel which must be coated with other metals like zinc
to improve its resistance to corrosion. Aluminum's lighter weight and
stiffness can enhance a vehicle's acceleration and handling, and reduce
its noise, vibration, and harshness characteristics.
For more information on aluminum in autos, visit www.drivealuminum.org.