The Greening of the Automotive Industry: Steel’s Stellar Role

Advanced high-strength steels are lighter, fully recyclable and produced with light life cycle impact, helping automakers decrease a vehicle’s life-long carbon footprint

DETROIT, April 22, 2010 – The message of “going green” may seem like a recent theme, but Earth Day is celebrating its 40th anniversary and that, in itself, reminds us that environmental issues have been important to society for some time.

That’s why the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) is helping automakers focus on the benefits of using environmentally friendly materials.   Advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) require less energy and emissions to produce than other automotive structural material, make lighter parts that reduce vehicle weight and increase fuel economy, and are fully recyclable.  These new steels benefit the vehicle in three vital areas of a vehicle’s life: manufacturing, driving, and end-of-life recycling.  Consequently, they are the fastest-growing material in new vehicles today.

“In addition to steel’s environmental benefits, the use of AHSS reduces a vehicle’s structural weight by as much as 25 percent and can cut total life cycle CO2 emissions by up to 15 percent more than any other automotive material,” said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president, SMDI. “And because it is fully recyclable, steel used in today’s cars can help automakers reduce the carbon footprint of tomorrow’s vehicles, as well.”

According to a recent study released by the Steel Recycling Institute, automobiles are recycled more than any other product, with nearly 100 percent of vehicles recycled today for their iron and steel content, (which comprises 67 percent of each vehicle).    In 2008, this resulted in more than 14.8 million tons of steel recovered for re-use from scrapped automobiles.

North American automotive and steel industry experts will discuss the environmental advantages of steel at Ninth Annual Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) seminar taking place, May 5 in Livonia, Mich. Presentation highlights include:

  • A design presentation of the Future Steel Vehicle program – a global steel industry research initiative to demonstrate safe, structurally efficient steel bodies for future vehicles that reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the entire vehicle life;
  • A LCA (life cycle assessment) roundtable;
  • An overview of the Environmental Protection Agency’s light-duty greenhouse gas rule and the role of vehicle mass reduction;
  • Sessions on lightweighting automobile bodies and powertrain components; and
  • Discussions on the use of AHSS to increase vehicle safety, strength and durability.

For more information on GDIS and the environmental benefits of AHSS, visit

The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute, 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

SMDI’s Automotive Application Council investors:

AK Steel Corporation
ArcelorMittal Dofasco
ArcelorMittal USA
Nucor Corporation
Severstal North America, Inc.
United States Steel Corporation

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