WorldAutoSteel Case Studies Stress Need for Lifecycle Mindset in Vehicle Emissions Regulations

DETROIT, Nov. 24, 2014 – WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, recently released findings of two new case studies that examine the effect various automotive materials can have on total life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for light-duty truck and sport utility vehicle (SUV) classes. By conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) of each vehicle class, the studies showed that advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) lowered total life cycle emissions and decreased fuel consumption.

The case studies used the Automotive Materials Energy and GHG Comparison model (UCSB Model), developed by Dr. Roland Geyer of the University of California Santa Barbara Bren School of Environmental Sciences. They investigated whether or not an AHSS-intensive design would result in fewer emissions than an aluminum-intensive design, compared to a conventional steel baseline, when looking at the entire vehicle life.

“Numerous iterations of the model were conducted to simulate the many possible conditions a vehicle might see,” said Russell Balzer, technical director, WorldAutoSteel. “In each vehicle’s best performance (lowest emissions) case, the steel design showed decreased total life cycle emissions over the aluminum vehicle by 3 percent for the light-duty truck and 5 percent for the SUV.”

For a fleet (annual production of 700,000 trucks; 200,000 SUVs), if both vehicles were manufactured in AHSS, it equates to approximately 1.7 million metric tonnes total emissions savings over the aluminum-intensive vehicles.

The UCSB model also projects fuel savings by considering driving cycles, engines, fuel types, effects of lightweighting and other factors impacting fuel usage. Results showed that fuel consumption was not substantially decreased when substituting aluminum for steel. The AHSS and aluminum designs reduced structural* weight by 25 percent and 35 percent, respectively. For both the truck and SUV cases, the AHSS designs were within 70 kilograms of the aluminum weight savings. The data showed that owners of an aluminum-intensive light-duty truck can expect to visit the fuel station four less times over the entire life of the vehicle (assuming a 26-gallon tank and 12-year lifetime) than the AHSS-intensive truck owner, or a savings of one-third of one fuel fill up per year. The aluminum SUV driver can expect to save about three visits to fill up over the entire vehicle life, or one-quarter of one fuel fill up per year less than steel. At U.S. average fuel prices ($4.00 / gallon), that is a consumer cost savings of about $25 - $35 per year.

From a lightweighting perspective, the efforts to lower weight with aluminum to reduce fuel consumption resulted in an increased environmental footprint overall at a potential cost of three times that of steel.

 “On a life cycle basis, the AHSS-intensive vehicles produce fewer emissions than the aluminum-intensive one,” said Balzer. “Steel performs better in these vehicle cases because the primary production of steel, including AHSS, produces seven to 20 times fewer emissions than other materials such as aluminum, magnesium and carbon fibre reinforced plastics.”

WorldAutoSteel believes a life cycle approach to vehicle emissions regulations will foster the approaches needed to truly reduce automotive industry emissions.

“Without a lifecycle approach to auto emissions, automotive designers can be forced into solutions that end up merely shifting the environmental impact, not reducing it,” said Balzer. “Regulations need to support a holistic big picture approach, from start to finish; otherwise, they will continue to lead automakers into approaches that may result in some fuel consumption savings but that can, in the end, lead to the unintended consequence of increased total vehicle emissions.”

LCA is a methodology that considers a vehicle’s entire life cycle, from the point where raw material is taken from the ground and the vehicle is built (manufacturing), to the time while the car is driving down the road and burning fuel (use or driving), to the point where it is hauled to the scrap yard and all of its recyclable content is removed and the rest disposed (end-of-life recycling and disposal).

The UCSB model is designed to quantify the energy and GHG impacts of automotive material substitution on a total vehicle life cycle basis, under a broad range of conditions and in a completely transparent fashion. The model methodology has been peer-reviewed by members of the LCA community and the aluminum industry.

Review the complete findings of the Light Duty Truck and SUV LCA case studies.

The UCSB model, including a comprehensive User Guide, also is available for free download at

*Structural weight reduction for truck body structure, doors, hood and truck bed; for SUV body structure, doors, hood, liftgate, suspension and subframe.

WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, is comprised of 18 major global steel producers from around the world. WorldAutoSteel’s mission is to advance and communicate steel’s unique ability to meet the automotive industry’s needs and challenges in a sustainable and environmentally responsible way. WorldAutoSteel is committed to a low carbon future, the principles of which are embedded in our continuous research, manufacturing processes, and ultimately, in the advancement of automotive steel products, for the benefit of society and future generations. To learn more about WorldAutoSteel and its projects, visit

AISI serves as the voice of the North American steel industry in the public policy arena and advances the case for steel in the marketplace as the preferred material of choice. AISI also plays a lead role in the development and application of new steels and steelmaking technology. AISI is comprised of 20 member companies, including integrated and electric furnace steelmakers, and approximately 125 associate members who are suppliers to or customers of the steel industry. AISI’s member companies represent more than three quarters of both U.S. and North American steel capacity.

SMDI grows and maintains the use of steel through strategies that promote cost-effective solutions in the automotive, construction and container markets, as well as for new growth opportunities in emerging steel markets. For more news or information, visit or follow us on Twitter at @DriveUsingSteel. SMDI automotive investors include: AK Steel Corporation, ArcelorMittal Dofasco, ArcelorMittal USA, Nucor Corporation and United States Steel Corporation.

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Deanna Lorincz
Senior Director, Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 248.945.4763 / 586.634.1766

Jennifer Greenfelder
Manager, Automotive Communications
Steel Market Development Institute
Tel: 248.945.4767

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