“A new alloy is as good as titanium at a tenth of the cost” – Business Insider, 8 February 2015

South Korea-based scientist Dr. Hansoo Kim and his associates at the Pohang University of Science and Technology have created a new alloy by reconfiguring steel by a few nanometers, or billionths of a meter. Though the manipulation occurs on the smallest of scales, it creates an alloy that is as durable and light as titanium alloys but more economical.

Steel is continuously on the decline; now that President Obama has mandated that car fuel economies double by 2025, the US automotive industry has been working with big-name aluminum companies like Novelis and Alcoa to manufacture car parts. The aerospace industry is also experiencing the same push towards aluminum, since steel — although inexpensive and sturdy — remains a heavier metal. The percentage of steel made parts in cars has dropped from 68.1 percent in 1995 to 60.1 percent in 2011. Now that Ford is working on its new generation of all-aluminum F-150s, you can imagine that those numbers have dropped even further.

Dr. Kim took it upon himself to create a new alloy that still uses steel, but also employs a few other lighter metals. The combination he discovered to be the best is iron, aluminum, carbon, steel, and nickel. Without nickel, Kim found the alloy too fragile; however, adding the nickel allows for a reaction to occur between the nickel and aluminum to make new nanometers that bind more efficiently with the steel. The crystals that the nickel create prevent the alloy from fracturing.

The new alloy uses a combination of relatively cheap materials, which means it can still be cheap to purchase on an industrial scale. Fueled by global innovations, it’s only a question of how long before light metals like aluminum, magnesium, and now titanium will start  dominating as the material of choice for automobile production.

(From Business Insider)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 8, 2015

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“Novelis Invests $48M in Automotive Aluminum Scrap Recycling Facility” – Environmental Leader, 30 January 2015

Last month, Novelis revealed that it has invested $48 million in its automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility. Novelis, the world’s largest flat-rolled aluminum maker, has recently entered the automotive industry by producing parts for auto companies that are shifting from steel to all-aluminum bodies. Novelis currently produces the aluminum that is used for the body and engines in Ford F-150 trucks.

The automotive aluminum scrap recycling facility employs a “closed loop” system, which will allow Novelis to reuse 20 million pounds of scrap every month. When the company manufactures aluminum coil, around 40% of the coil remains from the parts. Using the closed loop system, Novelis will gather the scrap and bring it back to the factory floor, where it will be reused again.

US automakers have been required to switch from steel to aluminum to comply with President Obama’s mandate that new cars must double their fuel economies by 2025. Ford F-150′s are now lighter — aluminum parts have already advanced the trucks’ fuel efficiency by 30 percent. Ford is slated to manufacture 850,000 of the trucks, which will call for 350,000 tons of aluminum sheeting.

In order to fill the supply gap for the automotive aluminum sheet market, several US and global producers have announced building of either greenfield construction or brownfield  expansions — mostly in new Detroit and southern states like Kentucky, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

This trend will provide several business challenges and opportunities to gather, sort, and manufacture aluminum sheet alloys from recycled post-consumer scrap, including UBC, and will hopefully use recycle-friendly alloys.

(From Environmental Leader)

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 8, 2015

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“Fuel-Efficiency Rules Are Already Raising Costs in Detroit” – Wall Street Journal, 22 January 2014

Even though GM and Chrysler have paid off their auto-bailout loans, they are still under the thumb of Uncle Sam; elements of Obama’s Climate Action Plan do not only extend towards power plants, but automakers as well. According to the Climate Action Plan, car companies’ products have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This, however, requires huge design changes that are going to be a big blow to profit margins.

America’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F150, is getting a complete redesign. from the inside out. It will be the first truck and large-volume vehicle to have an all-aluminum body, which will lower its weight and increase its fuel efficiency. Obama’s Climate Action Plan requires full-size trucks to have a better fuel efficiency, up to 30 mpg from the current 20 mpg.

Switching to aluminum, though better for the environment, is an expensive move. As we reported last month, converting to aluminum means higher material costs and new manufacturing machinery. While the price tag is high, Ford can’t fight the new regulations, and is instead doing all it can to effectively market the innovation behind its newly redesigned products, the F150 and Mustang—the latter redesign offers a never-before-seen turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Each sale of the redesigned F150 contributes an additional $10,000 to Ford’s bottom line.

GM, on the other hand, is creating a whole new midsize truck to meet Obama’s requirements, which they believe will be less costly. Chrysler, instead, is spending more on nine-speed transmissions and diesel engines.

Obama had hoped that the market for electric cars would increase; as a bid in that direction, an element of the Climate Action Plan allows automakers to acquire mpg credits for manufacturing zero-emission vehicles. However, the demand for electric vehicles is still low, proving that that kind of car is still a niche product. Pricing for electric cars start at $40,000 and only increase from there.

While it is always painful to have a winner and loser, the “materials selection war” (steel vs. aluminum) is a long-term societal consideration and climate change mitigation, where aluminum is the ultimate winner. These trends will force America to increase the recycling of post-consumer aluminum products—as opposed to landfill and scrap export—and to also increase the design and manufacturing of recycle-friendly alloys.

There is simply not enough expensive and energy-intensive primary aluminum capacity available to meet higher aluminum demand of 100 million, and growing, cars per year.

See also:
Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 12, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

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