Cars and other vehicles have been around for decades. Although the automotive technology evolved a lot over the years, the materials used in manufacturing of vehicles hardly underwent any transformation. It is only a couple of decades ago that certain advanced, lightweight materials came into the picture, especially in passenger cars manufacturing. Aluminum and magnesium alloys, and some carbon fiber composites were used for the first time in mass manufacturing of passenger cars, as such materials have the potential to curtail a vehicle’s total body and chassis weight by almost half of the original.
Why lightweight materials for manufacturing vehicles?
With exploding automotive industry, the focus on using lightweight automotive body panels is also on the rise since the recent past. This will fuel the sales of lightweight automotive components globally over the next decade. A recently conducted study by Future Market Insights suggests that the global sales of lightweight automotive body panels will possibly observe modest expansion at a compound annual growth rate of 4.8% over a 10-year forecast period, 2016-2026.
Recent fuel emission standards compel OEMs to cut on the overall automobile weight to meet the regulations by using lighter materials than conventional ones, including high-strength, low-density steel, aluminum, composites, and polymers. According to Future Market Insights, high-strength steel will continue to account for the maximum revenue sales in the lightweight automotive body panels market. This material currently holds over 73% revenue share, followed by aluminum with around 18% revenue share. Automakers are increasingly striving to meet strict fuel emission standards and allied regulatory measures. Manufacturing of lightweight vehicles is considered to be one of the first steps toward achieving a fuel-efficient automotive model.
Among all the vehicle types, passenger cars are identified to hold a major share in the lightweight automotive body panels market. This segment currently has over 46% revenue contribution, which is likely to surge even more in near future, according to Future Market Insights. Bumpers, trunk, door panels, roof, and other automotive body panels are usually made up of conventional metallic materials – iron or steel. However, these are the parts that heavily contribute to the total weight of vehicles and affect their fuel economy. Among the automotive body panels, door panels will possibly remain dominant, followed by trunk lids. The collective share of these two segments will possibly be more than half of the total revenues of the lightweight automotive body panels market.
Pros of lightweight automotive body panels
The automotive and transportation industries are heavily incorporating lightweight yet strong materials in making of vehicles in order to primarily save fuel. However, there are a few more benefits of using lightweight automotive body panels apart from fuel-efficiency.
- Freedom of complex designing
- Cost-effective tooling, compared to that of conventional metal (precisely steel)
- Higher compatibility, exceptional strength
- Engineered crash performance
- Relatively easier painting and thermal treatment
- Better sound-dampening properties
- Better electrical insulation
Using ‘hybrid’ technology
Use of patented hybrid technology for manufacturing lightweight automobiles has already entered the mainstream. Metals, plastics, and other materials are strategically combined to obtain an effective and efficient weight reduction output. Several leading automakers have been using metal-plastic hybrid materials in order to significantly reduce the eight of automotive parts by almost 50% of its original weight. Globally leading OEMs, such as Audi, Hyundai-Kia, and BMW have successfully used the hybrid materials technology for front ends of around 70 models of cars.