The Value of Steel in the Automotive Industry

The Value of Steel in the Automotive Industry

As the automotive market looks for innovative ways to meet future Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) requirements, the North American steel industry continues to invest in advanced materials and manufacturing technologies that have led to the introduction of a wide variety of new automotive steels. The steel industry is meeting this need through the development of new advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) grades, whose unique metallurgical properties and manufacturability enable the automotive industry to affordably meet increasingly stringent requirements.

Studies show AHSS steel grades are growing faster in new automotive applications than alternative materials. Each year, new car models are introduced using lighter-weight, higher-strength steel components that provide a cost-effective answer to the demand for increased safety and fuel economy.

Projects, such as FutureSteelVehicle, which introduced more than 20 AHSS grades, show the latest steel grades, combined with innovative processing methods and design optimization techniques, enable steel to achieve up to a 25 percent mass reduction in many applications, virtually equivalent to mass reduction levels achieved by aluminum. There are several other examples of AHSS technologies, including the front lower control arm that is the same weight as the aluminum version at one-third less cost.

Mass reduction with AHSS not only conserves material but helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the full life cycle of the vehicle, including manufacturing, driving and recycling. Life cycle assessment data shows steel, which makes up nearly 55 percent of the average North American vehicle, generates fewer manufacturing emissions than other automotive body materials. Vehicles using high-strength steels provide significant reduction in driving emissions, as well as total life cycle emissions.

If currently available AHSS were applied throughout the present U.S. automotive fleet, greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles would be reduced by approximately 12 percent—an amount greater than the emissions generated by the entire American steel industry today. This reduction in emissions is already underway as automotive designers around the world use increasing amounts of AHSS in their vehicles.