WASHINGTON, D.C., New commercial vehicle fuel economy regulations announced by the Obama Administration and embraced by truck and engine manufacturers, as well as by environmental groups, show aluminum above all other materials as having the greatest potential to safely reduce vehicle weight to boost fuel economy and cut emissions. The final rule published this month by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires improvements to trucks and buses built from 2014 to 2018 that will reduce the nation’s oil consumption by an estimated 530 million barrels and cut greenhouse gas emissions by about 270 million metric tons annually, in part because they can be made lighter with aluminum.
In finalizing the rule, EPA and NHTSA evaluated aluminum, high strength steel and composites to rate the greatest mass reduction opportunities as the industry transitions away from traditional, heavier steel. Both agencies, as well as the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), showed aluminum far above the others as offering the greatest benefits. According to the rule (sourced from pages 100-104 of the PDF linked here):
“DOE reviewed prospective lightweighting alternative materials and found that aluminum has a potential to reduce mass by 40 to 60 percent.” In contrast, the same DOE report noted in the rule, “…identified opportunities to reduce mass by 10 percent through high strength steel.” The regulators also concluded, “…we do not believe these technologies [plastics and composites] have advanced far enough to quantify the benefits of these materials…”
According to Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group, “The new EPA and NHTSA rule makes clear that heavy trucks are about to get less heavy and singles out aluminum, as having the greatest potential to cut weight and boost fuel economy while cutting emissions than any other material. As with the recent draft rule proposed for cars and light trucks, the new truck standards will speed the transition to a cleaner, more efficient fleet - which will rely more and more on strong, low weight and infinitely recyclable aluminum to get the job done. Aluminum will be central to helping commercial vehicles, as well as cars and light trucks, safely save billions of gallons of fuel and millions of tons of carbon annually across the fleet.”
Currently, an average Class 8 truck uses more than 1,000 pounds of aluminum, making up about four percent of total tractor weight. Calling attention to data provided by the aluminum industry, the rule sets a target of 400 additional pounds in weight reduction for the new standards. In their data-driven analysis, EPA and NHTSA evaluated 29 specific weight reduction opportunities for material substitution, all which quantify aluminum’s vastly superior ability to save weight as compared to competing materials.*
“In an industry where less vehicle weight means more company profit, strategic weight reduction with aluminum is a smart business tool that is rising in importance and recognized by truck and engine makers, as well as regulators. As truck operators look for every reasonable way to cut costs, increased aluminum in their vehicles can translate to greater payload capacity, lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs and higher resale value. Across the board in these cost-saving categories, aluminum delivers like no other material,” said Scheps.
About the Aluminum Transportation Group
The Aluminum Association Inc.’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG), communicates the benefits of aluminum in ground transportation applications to help accelerate its penetration through research programs and related outreach activities. The ATG’s mission is to serve member companies and act as a central resource for the automotive and commercial vehicle industries on aluminum issues. Members of the ATG include: Alcoa Inc., Novelis Inc., Alcan Inc, Aluminum Precision Products Inc., Kaiser Aluminum Corporation, Hydro Aluminum North America and Sapa Group.