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Ducker survey finds aluminum expected to represent 16% of total vehicle weight by 2028; transition to a multi-material design

Over the next decade, automakers will continue to increase the adoption of high-strength, low weight aluminum in new car and truck construction at a faster pace than ever before. Total aluminum content is expected to grow from 397 pounds (180.1 kg) per vehicle (PPV) in 2015 to 565 PPV (256.3 kg) by 2028, representing 16% of total vehicle weight, according to a survey of automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide. The study was commissioned by the Aluminum Association.

This is consistent with the emerging trend of automakers transitioning to a multi-material vehicle (MMV) design approach, choosing aluminum for doors, hoods and trunk lids, body-in-white, bumpers and crash boxes.

Aluminum remains the fastest growing automotive material over competing materials and is entering its most unprecedented growth phase since we’ve been tracking the shifting mix of automotive materials. To further improve fuel economy, battery range, safety and overall driving performance, automakers no longer default to a single material and instead are pursuing a multi-material design approach where the best material is chosen for the best application. This design evolution is what’s driving aluminum’s increased market penetration in the auto sector.

—Abey Abraham of Ducker Worldwide

2020 Projections. The study finds that total aluminum content for North American lightweight vehicles will increase to nearly 9 billion pounds, averaging 466 PPV by 2020, an increase of 69 pounds from 2015. Aluminum parts will more than double with aluminum hoods expected to reach 71% penetration (up from 50% today).

Fifty percent of total aluminum content growth from 2015 to 2020 will be driven by closures, crash management systems, steering knuckles and structural vacuum die-cast parts. Aluminum vacuum die castings are expected to grow from less than three PPV today to 14 PPV by 2020. The average passenger car will contain 362 pounds (164.2 kg) of aluminum and the average light truck will contain 523 pounds (237 kg) of aluminum by 2020.

Drucker also found that for five OEMs, the average aluminum content per vehicle in 2020 will be more than 600 pounds (272.2 kg).

Drucker expects aluminum sheet for closures to increase from 23 pounds (10.4 kg) per vehicle in 2015 to 61 pounds (27.7 kg) per vehicle in 2020—more than 2.5 times in five years. Aluminum hood penetration will increase from 50% in 2015 to 71% in 2020. Penetration for doors will increase from less than 5% in 2015 to slightly over 25% 2020.

Hoods will account for 25% of the of the total 2020 closure weight, and doors will be 43%. Other than the Tesla Model S, there were essentially no aluminum doors in North American produced vehicles prior to 2014.

At current production levels that equates to 1.06 million tons (0.96 metric tonnes) of gross sheet consumption including process scrap (blanking scrap, stamping scrap, etc.).

Total extruded product content—shapes, tube, rod and bar—increases from 36 pounds (16.3 kg) per vehicle in 2015 to 49 pounds (22.2 lbs) per vehicle in 2020. Aluminum extrusions for crash management parts are expected to increase by nearly 6 pounds (2.7 kg) per vehicle, up 65%. Extruded BIW components are expected to increase by 4.4 pounds (2 kg) or 100% by 2020. Bumper beam penetration will increase from 33% in 2015 to 54% in 2020.


2020 to 2028. Ducker projects total aluminum content growing to 565 PPV (16% of curb mass) by 2028 with nearly 25% of vehicles having partial aluminum body-in-white. More than two million of those vehicles will be pickup trucks and 400,000 will have plug-in hybrid or zero-emissions powertrains.

Forecasts for the 2020 to 2028 time period are based on EPA and NHTSA technology implementation pathways suggesting mass reduction from zero percent for some passenger cars and small SUVs to 20% for large trucks and SUVs to achieve an overall industry average mass reduction of 7% (270 pounds/ 122.5 kg) by 2025.

Empirical evidence from Ducker’s research suggests achieving 7% curb mass reductions is likely to be delayed to 2028 due, in part, to new model launch timing constraints with several vehicles expected to launch post-2024 with significant aluminum body content. Under either scenario, a multi-material approach is the expected pathway with aluminum contributing to more than 50% of total mass reduction.

Since the Ducker study for the ATG three years ago, there have been some significant changes. The most important change is in the timing of exactly when new aluminum closure and body parts are added, particularly for large trucks and SUVs. The emerging pattern has more aluminum added with each model change over a ten to fifteen year period until all the closures are aluminum and at least 50% the body is aluminum. This is a much different timing pattern than Ford exhibited on the F-150.

The consequences of this new pattern, which better manages the cost increases associated with aluminum BIW & Closure parts, gives competing materials and electrification a greater opportunity to impact the final outcome. Multimaterial body structures, with innovative joining methods, are much more likely than they where three years ago, and alternative powertrain technology continues to surprise everyone. Given enough time it would be a mistake to underestimate competing materials or the progress of competing technologies.

All things considered and after looking at the problem and the research from every angle, it has become clear that there is no affordable way to maintain vehicle size and achieve a 7% mass savings with concentration on light trucks without a very significant increase of high growth aluminum components. Steel, magnesium, CFRP and polycarbonate additions are critical. Aluminum BIW & Closure parts, however, are the key to achieving both regulatory and OEM goals for vehicle improvements over the next ten to fifteen years.

—“Aluminum Content In North American Light Vehicles 2016 to 2028”

Methodology. Since 1996, the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group (ATG) has commissioned global consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide to conduct a [triennial] survey of automakers. This year’s “Aluminum Content in North American Light Vehicles 2016 To 2028” study is based on a top down analysis relying primarily on detailed in-person interviews with automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and their suppliers, as well as data obtained from the US Environmental Protection Agency, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Center for Automotive Research.

With its top-down analysis, Ducker Worldwide determined mass reduction and material mix forecasts and examined the effect of fuel prices, vehicle mix, secondary weight savings, electrification, vehicle design and vehicle launch cadence on the amount of weight that is expected to be shed by vehicle type.



@Harvey, what you (and the rest of us) wanted, lighter cars, year by year - maybe not as dramatic as you wish for, but along the same trajectory.

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