Low weight aluminum offers real-world fuel economy and emissions benefits to manufacturers of commercial vehicles. That was the key message Todd Summe, Division Manager, Product Design & Development for Alcoa (NYSE:AA), told attendees at the SAE Commercial Vehicle Engineering & Exhibition held last week in Illinois. Summe participated in a panel discussion on sustainability issues representing the Aluminum Association's Aluminum Transportation Group.
"With many challenges facing the commercial vehicle industry, including concern over greenhouse gas emissions, fuel costs and federal mandates that add weight to vehicles, high strength, yet low weight aluminum offers real-world solutions today," said Summe. "Aluminum offers a 40-50 percent weight savings over steel. Fleet and owner operators want increased payload, better fuel economy and reduced emissions, which aluminum delivers on all fronts."
Summe discussed the advantages of using advanced aluminum applications in commercial vehicles and cited research that validates the benefit of lightweighting. For example, aluminum use in cars globally saves 300 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 35 billion gallons of gasoline annually.
"Lightweight aluminum presents an opportunity for the trucking industry to improve fuel efficiency and payload, reduce operating costs and emissions, improve durability, increase resale value, and meet sustainability goals because aluminum is infinitely recyclable. All this, without sacrificing safety and performance," Summe said.
Other facts Summe highlighted include:
- Road testing of a bus fleet in China indicates a 3,000 pound weight savings achieved through an aluminum spaceframe, forged aluminum wheels and aluminum skin - the body is 46% lighter than a comparable steel bus body.
- An aluminum wheel can improve tire rolling resistance by up to 3% over a comparable size steel wheel - 3% less rolling resistance equals 1% fuel savings.
- Aluminum provides increased value and mileage when matched with hybrid electric vehicles, compared to steel bodied vehicles.