ULSAB: Key Points to Remember About Steel and the UltraLight Steel Auto Body


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Key Points to Remember About Steel and the UltraLight Steel Auto Body

  • The UltraLight Steel Auto Body (ULSAB) destroys the current engineering paradigms that a stiffer, stronger steel body structure must be heavier and that a lighter body structure must be more expensive. The UltraLight Body is lighter, stronger, has excellent crash performance and could cost less to build than a current mid-size auto body.

  • The new paradigm is that steel has evolved as a lightweight material. We are challenging the auto industry to think of steel when they think lightweight, and throw out the paradigms of steel past.

  • The ULSAB structure weighs merely 203 kg (447 lbs.), up to 36 percent less than the mid-size sedans benchmarked in the concept phase of the study. Torsion and bending tests of the structure showed dramatic improvements over benchmark of 80 percent and 52 percent, respectively, and first body structure mode indicates a 58 percent improvement. Economic analysis showed it could actually cost less to build than the average car body in its class.

  • Steel is the dominant material in auto bodies today, and that likely will continue – but the ULSAB and other initiatives prove that the steel industry is committed to helping its auto customers meet the fuel economy, safety and environmental challenges that loom in the next century.

  • Steel is the most recycled material. Through its unparalleled capacity to be recycled again and again, steel saves precious resources and reduces waste.

  • The UltraLight Body initiative shows great promise for steel’s ability to help the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) meet all three of its goals, including building an affordable family sedan "supercar" early in the next millennium that gets up to 80 miles per gallon.

  • The steel industry has challenged PNGV supercar program to commission the design and production of a steel bodied, affordable midsize car weighing just 2,000 lbs., and believes that such a car would be "definitely possible" with advanced powertrain technology, and might be possible with a conventional gasoline engine. An UltraLight body car would weigh just less than 3,000 lbs. without allowance for any secondary weight savings.

  • A companion initiative to ULSAB by the U.S. steel industry is the Light Truck Structure (LTS) study completed last year. LTS also demonstrated reduced weight and improved performance and safety, as well as potential manufacturing efficiencies and cost reductions in sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

  • The UltraLight bodies were built using high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels, and advanced forming and joining techniques such as tailor-welded blanks, hydroformed parts and laser welding. But while ULSAB techniques are high-tech, they are not beyond current capabilities in the auto industry and could be put to work in vehicles on the drawing boards today.

  • The UltraLight Steel Auto Body project is the result of unprecedented cooperation between 35 of the world’s largest steel producers. Begun in 1994, the $22 million initiative was intended to show both theoretically and physically that a steel body in a family sedan could meet or exceed a wide variety of exacting performance, safety and cost targets. The ULSAB consortium hired a widely respected international engineering firm (Porsche Engineering Services) to do first a design study and then build about a dozen actual car bodies to prove the concept.