Engineering, Equipment & Technology, Mining and Heavy Industries

Lightweight steel offering real alternative to aluminium

Whyalla

A range of lighter, stronger steels are being used more frequently in vehicle manufacturing, an industry long-dominated by aluminium.

According to a report in The Australian this week, more car manufacturers, including Fiat, Honda, General Motors and now Audi, are now choosing to use lightweight steel in some of their car bodies.

“Everything is moving to thinner and lighter,” Mark Bula, chief commercial officer at Arkansas mill Big River Steel reportedly told the paper. “The steel industry is moving that way as well.”

Manufacturers are reportedly coming up with new ways to make steel less dense, without compromising its structural integrity.

Next year’s Audi A8 will reportedly be 40% steel, while the average amount of steel per car or light truck made in North America is projected to rise 76%, to 219kg.

While demand for aluminium is also expected to rise, analysts believe the cheaper price of steel could make lightweight steel products increasingly appealing to manufacturers. But there are still strides to be made.

“High-strength steel has some inherent properties that are tough to escape from,” Norwegian aluminium executive Svein Richard Brandtzaeg was quoted. “It’s three times heavier [than aluminium].”

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