September 25, 2012

 

Study Finds Alcoa Forged Aluminum Wheels Dramatically Cut Carbon Footprint of Commercial Vehicles, Supporting Sustainable Transportation

 

Savings of Switching One Truck from Steel Wheels to Alcoa Forged Aluminum Wheels Equals Average Annual Carbon Footprint of American Household

CLEVELAND--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Alcoa (NYSE: AA) today released the findings of a peer-reviewed life cycle assessment (LCA) which concludes that Alcoa aluminum wheels substantially cut the carbon footprint of commercial vehicles. In North America, the study found that substituting 18 conventional steel truck wheels with Alcoa aluminum wheels cut carbon emissions by 16.3 metric tons over the lifetime of the wheels. In Europe, replacing 12 steel wheels with aluminum cut 13.3 metric tons of carbon emissions. In addition, the study found that the use of Alcoa forged aluminum wheels over steel wheels can be viewed as an active and highly efficient investment into the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the commercial vehicle sector.

“As commercial vehicles face stricter regulations around reducing carbon emissions, this life cycle assessment confirms that Alcoa forged aluminum wheels support sustainable transportation and can help trucks and trailers to be greener,” said Tim Myers, President, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products. “Compared to steel, the lighter weight and infinite recyclability of Alcoa forged aluminum wheels support greener vehicles that cut down on fuel use and carbon emissions.”

“Life cycle assessment is the universally accepted method to comprehensively assess the environmental impact of a product,” said Dr. Christoph Koffler, Technical Director of PE International, Inc. & Five Winds Strategic Consulting, which conducted the study. “Our findings are based on the full life cycle of Alcoa forged aluminum wheels—from the raw materials, through the production, distribution, use, disposal, and recycling of the product.”

This analysis is the most comprehensive and transparent comparative LCA ever conducted on aluminum and steel truck wheels. It analyzed the entire “cradle-to-grave” production process of commercial vehicle wheels—from bauxite mining to wheel manufacturing, through a truck wheel’s use phase and end-of-life, including recycling and land filling. The study incorporated the latest available information on energy and material consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental releases. Alcoa provided primary data for aluminum wheel production from five facilities: two in the United States (Cleveland and Barberton, OH), one in Mexico, Hungary, and Japan. PE International provided upstream data for fuels, raw materials, and steel wheel manufacturing processes, including primary metals and chemicals. The study conformed to ISO methodology and was peer reviewed by respected professionals in the LCA community, including experts from the world-renowned Technische Universitat Berlin and the University of Michigan.

Major findings of the study include:

  • The 16.3 metric ton savings of switching one 18 wheel truck from steel wheels to Alcoa forged aluminum wheels in North America equals the average annual carbon footprint of a four person American household.
  • Alcoa wheels maintain their value throughout their lifetime and have an end-of-life scrap value that is nearly equal to that of primary aluminum.
  • For volume restricted vehicles in North America that are unable to add additional payload, switching from steel to Alcoa forged aluminum truck wheels produces an average lifetime savings of more than 520 gallons of fuel. In Europe, these savings amount to more than 1,942 liters.
  • For mass restricted vehicles in North America, where lighter weight aluminum wheels allow for additional payload, switching from steel to Alcoa forged aluminum truck wheels results in the ability to carry 414 lbs. of additional payload per haul with the same fuel consumption. In Europe, the amount totals 215 kg of additional payload per haul. This benefit reduces the fuel consumed per pound of cargo, thus increasing the efficiency of transport.
  • While aluminum wheels require more energy to manufacture than steel wheels, the light weight and recyclability of aluminum allow for a net energy savings throughout the life cycle of an aluminum wheel. A truck with aluminum wheels can see a CO2 “break even mileage” as early as 205,000 miles, or about two years. Once this mileage is reached, all the travel on aluminum wheels produces CO2 and energy savings.


Alcoa and PE International will present the findings of the LCA at the 12th Annual American Center for Life Cycle Assessment Conference in Tacoma, Washington on Tuesday, September 25, 2012. For more information on the conference, please visit http://lcacenter.org/LCAXII.aspx.

The LCA entitled, “Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminum and Steel Truck Wheels,” is publicly available at www.alcoawheels.com/LCA.

About Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products

Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products, headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio, serves the commercial vehicle, automotive, and defense markets with products used in a range of applications including forged aluminum wheels, premium products such as Dura-Bright®, Dura-Flange®, LvL ONE® and M-Series™ medium truck wheels, as well as a variety of other aluminum components for these markets. AWTP is composed of three divisions: Commercial Vehicle Wheels, Forged Specialty Wheels and Transportation Products. It employs 1,500 people at 13 locations worldwide. More information can be found at www.alcoawheels.com.

About Alcoa

Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary and fabricated aluminum, as well as the world’s largest miner of bauxite and refiner of alumina. In addition to inventing the modern-day aluminum industry, Alcoa innovation has been behind major milestones in the aerospace, automotive, packaging, building and construction, commercial transportation, consumer electronics and industrial markets over the past 120 years. Among the solutions Alcoa markets are flat-rolled products, hard alloy extrusions, and forgings, as well as Alcoa® wheels, fastening systems, precision and investment castings, and building systems in addition to its expertise in other light metals such as titanium and nickel-based super alloys. Sustainability is an integral part of Alcoa’s operating practices and the product design and engineering it provides to customers. Alcoa has been a member of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for 11 consecutive years and approximately 75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 61,000 people in 31 countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.

About PE International

PE INTERNATIONAL, Inc. & Five Winds Strategic Consulting is one of the world’s most experienced sustainability software, content and strategic consulting firms. With 20 years of experience and 20 offices around the globe, PE INTERNATIONAL allows clients to understand sustainability, improve their performance and succeed in the marketplace. Through market leading software solutions, Five Winds Strategic Consulting Services and implementation methodologies PE INTERNATIONAL has worked with some of the world's most respected firms to develop the strategies, management systems, tools and processes needed to achieve leadership in sustainability. For more information: www.pe-international.com.

 

Comparative Life Cycle Assessment of Aluminum and Steel Truck Wheels
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