Steel is the Solution to Achieve 54.5 MPG by 2025

As automakers work to satisfy new fuel economy requirements, it is clear that material selection for mass reduction will continue to be an important factor. As mass reduction occurs and demands for safety, performance and emissions reduction increase, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) stresses the vital role that new grades of steel will play in vehicles of the future. According to the latest industry research, newly developed grades of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) significantly outperform competing materials for current and future automotive applications.

Today, the mass of a typical light-duty vehicle is 55 percent steel and independent research shows AHSS is the fastest growing material in automotive applications. This growth is a direct result of steel’s performance flexibility, as well as its many benefits including low cost, mass reduction capabilities, safety attributes, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and superior recyclability.

The below chart show steel’s significant role in the average vehicle. It can be seen that aluminum represents about 8.6 percent, mostly in engine / powertrain castings.

Steel's Reinvention

Although steel has been used in vehicles from the automotive industry’s inception, steel is evolving, as its unique properties allow for new grades of AHSS – a group of stronger and more formable versions of the incumbent steels they replace – to be continually developed.

The FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) brings the largest portfolio of automotive steel grades ever seen to automotive engineers around the world. It includes more than 20 different and revolutionary AHSS grades representing materials expected to be commercially available in the 2015–20 technology horizon. FSV expanded the portfolio of materials to higher-strength levels as well, developing steels that reach into GigaPascal (over 1,000 MPa) strengths.

As demonstrated by the FSV project, the steel industry is invested in developing new technologies for future generation steels that enable car companies to reduce mass, improve fuel economy, reduce total emissions and continue to provide affordable, safe vehicles for the American public.

The Auto/Steel Partnership – a consortium of North American steel companies and automotive manufacturers – which will celebrate its 30th year in 2017 of helping drive steel innovations. In recent years, Auto/Steel Partnership projects have increased the number of steel options that contribute to improved fuel economy and reduced emissions, such as its:

  • Future Generation Passenger Compartment Project that achieved a 15 to 20 percent mass savings in the vehicle passenger compartment with the extensive use of AHSS, design optimization and manufacturing approaches;
  • Mass Efficient Architecture for Roof Strength Project that developed a lightweight vehicle roof structure design to meet enhanced government driven roof-strength requirements. The use of advanced and ultra high-strength steels achieved a 12 percent mass savings; and
  • Lightweight Front End Structures Analysis that studied the cost and mass effectiveness of practical steel variations in front end automotive structure design. The program exceeded the established targets, providing a 32 percent mass reduction.

Advanced Steel Technologies on the Road


Cadillac ATS

Chevy Sonic

Chevy Volt

Ford Fusion

Jeep Grand Cherokee

Infiniti JX35

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Steel's Role in Reducing a Vehicle's Total Carbon Footprint

Over the past decade, advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) have become the fastest growing material for vehicle use. AHSS are stronger, lighter, and have low emissions, helping automakers decrease a vehicle's life-long carbon footprint. The Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach takes a vehicle's entire environmental impact into account by looking at greenhouse gas emissions from each phase of its life. LCA shows that steel, which currently makes up about 60 percent of the average North American vehicle, generates fewer emissions than other automotive body materials. Over a vehicle's lifecycle, steel is the highest value and most environmentally effective choice for automakers