Use of alternative materials may present another problem for emissions reduction
Tokyo, 5 October 2010 – As emissions regulations around the world are eliciting vehicles with more efficient powertrains, the steel industry is advocating life cycle assessment (LCA) to insure a clear carbon footprint reduction.
“WorldAutoSteel is actively pursuing the advancement and support of life cycle thinking in the world today because we believe it’s the only way climate change can truly be addressed for meaningful impact,” said Edward Opbroek, WorldAutoSteel director, today at the World Steel Association’s worldsteel-44 Annual Conference.
Current regulations in discussion around the world are focused on measurement of tailpipe, or use phase, emissions only. However, it is not just vehicle use that generates GHG emissions, but all of its life cycle stages from materials manufacturing through end-of-life recycling.
“If materials are selected based on their performance in just one phase of a vehicle’s life, it could result in the unintended consequences of higher emissions over the whole life cycle,” said Opbroek. “Or, worse yet, impose severe cost increases for no ultimate gain in emissions improvements.”
Low density materials, such as aluminium, magnesium and composites, are used in some luxury class vehicles, where their costs are more easily absorbed into the high sales price. These same materials are now finding their way into electrified vehicles aimed at mass production to reach lightweighting goals. Their high costs can be somewhat justified balanced against reductions in battery size and costs. However, they create another significant emissions issue since the production of these materials is GHG-intensive, and therefore costly to the environment. These alternative materials produce 5 to 20 times more emissions per kilogram than steel.
With these low-density, GHG-intensive materials, this means that reductions in use-phase emissions accomplished by the electric vehicle are negatively offset by higher emissions in the materials production phase of the vehicle life cycle. The use of aluminium, magnesium and composites has two major impacts: their CO2e emissions per kilogram are higher than steel, and they front load the environment with harmful greenhouse gases that immediately begin destroying the environment.
But many automakers are accomplishing weight reduction and fuel economy today in high-volume ICE vehicles using the attributes of the latest generation of Advanced High-Strength Steel and steel technologies.
“There are fleets of vehicles in the market place today, and more soon to arrive, that are already achieving great success in reducing body structure weight in traditional ICE vehicles. These vehicles gain fuel and emissions efficiencies due to their weight reduction tactics, and the benefits of AHSS are making it into OEM marketing messages,” said Opbroek. Opbroek cited a few examples in his presentation including 2010 models of the Porsche Cayenne, Mazda 2 and the Honda Jazz. All of these vehicles have achieved reduced weight, increased safety and higher fuel efficiencies, for which the automakers credit AHSS as a key enabler.
“How mass reduction is achieved will determine whether we truly reduce vehicle carbon footprint or whether we create a new problem with highly increased manufacturing phase emissions and high-cost vehicle structures. The material choices made today will be the deciding factor,” Opbroek said.
Opbroek presented the latest results of the steel industry’s newest research, the FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) programme, which aims to demonstrate a holistic approach to emissions reduction. FSV will deliver auto body concepts addressing steel structures for advanced powertrains, such as advanced hybrid, electric, and fuel cell systems. The goal of the research is the demonstration of safe, lightweight steel structures for future vehicles that reduce GHG emissions over the entire life cycle while maintaining vehicle affordability relative to alternative materials.
FSV findings to date include the following:
Steel materials portfolio foretelling the future of steel production. The programme brings yet more advanced steel and steel technologies to its portfolio than ever seen before in steel industry projects, and consequently to the tool sets of automotive engineers around the world. Included are over 20 different new Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS) grades representing materials expected to be commercially available in the 2015–20 technology horizon.
New benchmark in weight reduction. FSV targets an A/B-Class BEV body structure mass of 190 kg that meets the projected year 2020 safety regulations, and reduces the total life cycle vehicle emissions. This mass target represents a 35 percent reduction over a baseline vehicle body structure, setting a new goal for vehicle lightweighting.
Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) Comparisons. Significant mass reduction targets achievable through AHSS are further supported by an LCA of each sub-system’s mass reduction effect on the vehicle’s total GHG footprint based on the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) GHG Materials Comparison Model.
New design methodology to realize the best environmental solution for compliance with future vehicle emission regulations. An SAE award-winning “state-of-the-future” design optimisation process used to develop structures for FSV has the same resource efficiency objective that mirrors what happens in nature, creating radically different, non-intuitive architectures optimised for the structure’s function within the total system. Consequently, the lightest solutions are realized for the given material and structural performance targets.
Notes to Editors:
WorldAutoSteel, the automotive group of the World Steel Association, is comprised of 17 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 advancement of automotive steel products, for the benefit of society and future generations.
To learn more about WorldAutoSteel and its projects, visit www.worldautosteel.org
Members of WorldAutoSteel are:
• Anshan Iron and Steel Group Corporation – China
• Arcelor Mittal - Luxembourg
• Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd. - China
• China Steel Corporation – Taiwan, China
• Hyundai-Steel Company - South Korea
• JFE Steel Corporation - Japan
• Kobe Steel, Ltd. - Japan
• Nippon Steel Corporation - Japan
• Nucor Corporation - USA • POSCO - South Korea
• SeverStal - Russia/USA
• Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd. - Japan
• Tata Steel - India, UK, Netherlands
• ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG - Germany
• United States Steel Corporation – USA, Slovakia
• Usinas Siderúrgicas de Minas Gerais S.A. - Brazil
• voestalpine Stahl GmbH – Austria