Automotive manufacturers are faced with increasingly stringent emissions standards, and one of their greatest challenges is how to effectively track and measure life-cycle carbon footprint reductions, and leverage that data as a marketing advantage.
The use of aluminum sheet in vehicle design is an important lever to reduce the overall CO2e footprint of new vehicle production and in-life usage. This is due in part to the lower amount of emissions it takes to produce aluminum, but also the important role aluminum can play in lightweight design to reduce emissions during the life of the vehicle on the road.
Aluminum suppliers experienced in complying with standards that have been historically stricter, usually in the European market, offer technical experience, as well as an array of analytical and material development processes to meet that challenge. Processes include the ability to drive multidisciplinary improvement from original vehicle design (involving alloy selection) and production through the collection and separation of OEM scrap for dedicated OEM-specific reuse and predictable future emissions reductions.
Sustainability as part of the performance equation
Only when sustainability is considered as one of the main performance goals in an integrated, multidisciplinary process from cradle to grave can OEMs achieve step-by-step sustainability improvement. As a certifiable emissions target baseline is set for each vehicle model, an experienced aluminum supply partner will define with the OEM specific initiatives and projects to achieve the OEM-sustainability goals.
• Reduce the total car production CO2e kg/vehicle emissions
• Reduce the in-use CO2e g/km emissions for the new fleet
This can involve initiatives focused on selecting the appropriate aluminum alloys and optimizing the design for outer panels, inner panels and a variety of medium- to high-strength structural applications to significantly reduce the overall CO2e footprint, not only during new vehicle production, but also in service use. In fact, experience has shown that an opportunity exists to further reduce the vehicle production accumulated emissions due to aluminum sheet by 20 to 25% from today’s aluminum vehicle level, while at the same time achieving an additional 6 to 8% CO2e per km emission savings due to the further vehicle weight reduction of circa 10%.
Independent certification enables ‘sustainability improvements’ promotion messages with credibility
Perhaps the greatest advantage to partnering with an experienced aluminum supply partner is its high level of expertise at life-cycle analysis and a geographically appropriate certification process. The wider the data sampling availability of existing applications, the more accurate the predictions, as the partner monitors CO2e of its existing alloys annually. OEMs can use the partner’s field-proven software add-ins for life-cycle analysis simulations. Best of all, every analysis provided is independently certified by a third party with authority, often approved by the OEM partner.
This transparent process is helping global automotive OEMs chart their path toward a more sustainable future.
Multidisciplinary process for sustainability at work
- Step 1: In partnership with the OEM automotive design team, the multidisciplinary process for sustainability begins by identifying specific performance goals — from strength, appearance and machinability to carbon reduction objectives — for current and successive generations of vehicles. What are the current CO2e emissions, and what is the partnership setting as goals for the new generation vehicles? In this step, the aluminum supply partner works with the OEM design team to carefully weigh the performance variables of the design geometry, the joining methods chosen, the vast number of available aluminum alloys ranging from 5000 and 6000 series alloys and others to find the optimum solution that meets the performance goals and cost targets, as well as the carbon emission reduction objectives.
- Step 2: Partnering with the OEM part pressing/assembly team allows for identification of areas for further reductions, including scrap reduction, yield improvements and improved coordination of external logistics.
- Step 3: Partnering with the material supplier’s manufacturing team to identify areas within casting, rolling and finishing operations that may reduce carbon footprint — where green energy can be harvested and used, where waste can be reduced and yield improved, and identifying what logistical efficiencies
exist between operations — can further optimize the most efficient use of the labor force.
- Step 4: Through a closed loop concept — the aluminum supply partner accepts the OEM’s scrap metal, separating its alloys, then reprocesses them for use in future models, improving supply security and reducing OEM dependence on primary aluminum sourcing while reducing its overall carbon emissions footprint.