Skip to main content

Aluminium for cleaner cars

Sapa Profiles is the world’s leading supplier of solutions using extruded aluminum profiles. Every kilo of aluminium saves 20 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of a vehicle. In comparison with steel, aluminium can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent.

A recent report shows that aluminium is the most effective metal for reducing the environmental impact of cars. In comparison with steel, for example, aluminium can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent. It is not only the fuel we run our cars on that is changing with growing environmental awareness. Manufacturers are now also looking at the materials they use to build them.

Components made from steel, magnesium and aluminium were compared in a recent report from a co-operative study between America, Canada and China, known as the Magnesium Front End Research and Development Project (mferd). The results show that in comparison with steel, aluminium delivers an energy saving of 20 percent over its entire life cycle, from manufacturing to recycling. In the same comparison the use of aluminium also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 20
percent.

“The main reason is the low weight of aluminium, which permits more fuel and emission savings than other metals. Aluminium can also be completely recycled,” says Zoltán Précsényi from the European Aluminium Association.

The report also shows that building cars with aluminium not only reduces their environmental impact. It also makes them safer and more comfortable. “It’s a common misconception that lighter cars are not as safe. Another is that cars that producelower emissions have to be smaller  in size and therefore less comfortable. On the safety front, aluminium has excellent energy absorption in a collision, which makes it a natural choice for lighter, more efficient and safer collision protection systems that significantly reduce injuries and deaths from car accidents, especially frontal collisions,” says Zoltán.

The strength to weight ratio of aluminium means that there is no need to change the design of cars. They can be made lighter in weight without having to be smaller in size. According to Zoltán Précsényi, the results of the mferd report – which reveals the environmental benefits of both magnesium and aluminium over steel – suggest we are soon likely to see more cars in which steel has been replaced with alternative metals.

“Aluminium still costs manufacturers more than steel, and consumers are not quite ready to pay more at the moment because of the economic climate, which means it will mainly be used in the premium segment. But European legal requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are likely to influence and encourage car makers to use lightweight materials, since this is the most effective way of cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Every kilo of aluminium saves 20 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions over the lifetime of a vehicle,” says Zoltán Précsényi.