Beyond Strong: Steel is Lightweight. Affordable. Sustainable.

While there are a number of competing low-density materials for automotive applications, none offer the complete package – safety, lightweighting, affordability and sustainability – of steel. Some may compete in one aspect, but no other material offers the automotive industry the complete package it seeks.

Steel is Lightweight

  • New steel design methods and manufacturing processes have increased the mass savings achievable with steel to be essentially equivalent to production aluminum vehicles.
  • Research has enabled AHSS and its manufacturing process to continually evolve:
    • AHSS grades are becoming increasingly stronger and more formable (some are five times stronger than their predecessors and have produced parts 25 to 35 percent lighter than previous steel parts);
    • Manufacturers have developed methods, such as tailor rolling and tailor welding, to avoid unnecessary or redundant mass in vehicle structures by enabling engineers to place the strength exactly where needed;
    • Due to steel research under FSV, engineers have use of new design methods which can optimize multiple parameters. For example, the ability to simultaneously select the best combinations of strength, thickness and part geometry, as well as cost and carbon footprint; and
    • According to the FSV project, new grades offer increased mass reduction for the body-in-white (BIW) that is on par with the mass reduction potential of aluminum.

(Link to Lightweight Webpage)

Steel is Affordable

  • Mass reduction with steel can be achieved at nearly zero cost, while engineering studies show low-density materials like aluminum cost $2.75 or more per pound saved. Most manufacturing plants are currently equipped with the technology and machines required to use steel; eliminating the costly retooling necessary to produce and use other materials.
  • Steel vehicles’ damage repair and insurance costs are more affordable than vehicles produced with other materials. Reports of higher costs to repair aluminum parts suggest that the use of alternative materials could have cost consequences to consumers.
  • Steel is available globally and steel-intensive designs can therefore be implemented on global vehicle platforms, enabling car companies to keep costs low.

    (Link to Affordable Webpage)

Steel is Sustainable

  • Life cycle assessment (LCA) is an established method of measuring the carbon footprint of products, accounting for total greenhouse gas emissions associated with vehicles. High-strength steels provide the only materials solution for mass reduction that also reduces greenhouse gas emissions in all phases of a vehicle’s life: manufacturing; usage phase; and end-of-life.
  • LCA shows that steel, which currently makes up about 60 percent of the average North American vehicle, generates fewer manufacturing emissions than other automotive body materials. Vehicles using high-strength steels provide significant reduction in driving emissions, as well as total life cycle emissions.
  • Steel is recycled more than all other materials on the planet, combined with a remarkably high overall recycling rate. Recycling of automotive steel can reach over 100 percent, with new models being lighter and more fuel efficient than past models.
  • Steel is magnetic, making it easily and affordably recycled. Because of steel’s physical properties, one product can be recycled into another without loss of quality, contributing to the material’s high recycling rate and affordability.
  • Unlike alternative materials, there is an abundant amount of recycled steel (approximately more than 80 million tons per year) available to manufacture new steel products.
  • Due to its physical properties, aluminum is not recycled across products and very little aluminum automotive sheet is produced from recycled vehicles. This means that any increased use of aluminum sheet for automobiles must come from greenhouse gas intensive primary aluminum, which is approximately five times the greenhouse gas emissions of steel.
  • The use of AHSS can reduce a vehicle’s structural weight by as much as 39 percent and can cut total life cycle CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent more than any other automotive material, according to the FSV study.

    (Link to Sustainable Webpage)