Lightweighting can save the transportation sector a lot of money– in aviation, a 1-lb. reduction is worth a $100 to $300premium, for example – but each material has its ownchallenges, according to a Lux Research report. The report, titled Structural Navigation: Optimizing Materials Selection in Automotiveand Aerospace , says the transportation sector will choose emerging structuralmaterials to save fuel, as energy use rises 53% from 2008 levels to765 quadrillion BTUs in 2035. While carbon fiber and nanomaterials receive all the hype, otheradvanced structural materials such as magnesium and advancedhigh-strength steel (AHSS) will have a greater affect on efficientenergy use, the report says. |
Lux Research analysts conducteddecision-tree analyses to understand which materials will flourishwhere, now and in the future. Among their findings: AHSS is the cost and availability leader. At an average price of$1.70/kg, AHSS is the cheapest advanced structural material andavailable in plenty. Its affordable price is a significantadvantage for high-volume vehicles, but properties aren t asdazzling as some other materials, and its limited ductility andwelding pose problems.
Aluminum is often the best short-term bet. Aluminum is second onlyto steel in cost and availability because of the scale brought byglobal giants like Alcoa, Rio Tinto Alcan and Rusal. Its alloysoccupy the middle ground on the overall structural materialsspectrum and in many uses is the best material to use in the shortterm without disrupting existing manufacturing practices. Aerospace is decades ahead of automotive in carbon fiber reinforcedplastics (CFRP). While new aerospace models like Airbus A350 andBoeing s 787 Dreamliner employ more than 50 percent CFRP byweight, on average polymer composites constitute less than 2percent of an automobile s total weight.
Boeing and Airbus enjoylongstanding relationships with major carbon fiber suppliers suchas Toray, Teijin, Mitsubishi Rayon, Hexcel, Cytec and Formosa. The transportation sector makes up nearly one-third of globalenergy demand, according to Ross Kozarsky, Lux Research analyst andthe lead author of the report. A 2011 report by Frost & Sullivan predicted a major shift to lighter materials in the automotive industry as governments in Europe, the U.S. andJapan introduce tighter restrictions on carbon emissions.
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