Aluminum Can Help Transportation Industry Meet Sustainability Objectives

March 2, 2008
Aluminium is part of the solution to improve the sustainability of the transport industry. That was the key message given by Randall Scheps, Alcoa's director of Ground Transportation, to attendees at the Weststart-CALSTART Clean Heavy Duty Vehicle Conference held recently in San Diego. The conference focused on advanced technology for cleaner commercial transportation vehicles.

"Weight reduction can play a key role in enabling the transportation industry and members of its supply chain to meet their sustainability objectives. Aluminum is one of the most viable light-weighting options available to Original Equipment Manufacturers in all areas of transport for weight reduction applications," Scheps said.

He cited a world aluminum industry report which stated the application of aluminum in vehicles manufactured in 2006 will lead to potential savings of approximately 140 million tons of CO2 equivalent emissions and to energy savings equivalent to 60 billion liters of crude oil over the lifecycle of these vehicles.

Alcoa Leading the Way
Scheps said that Alcoa is a leader in innovation of aluminum to reduce weight applications in all areas of transit. He described Alcoa's partnership with China's largest bus manufacturer, Zhengzhou Yutong, to design a lightweight, energy efficient aluminum bus that will be on the road in time for the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

"We anticipate a 1500 kg (about 3,300 pound) weight reduction with the use of an aluminum space frame, wheels and aluminum body panels on the bus, resulting in 50-80 tons of emissions saved per bus over its lifetime," he said.

Scheps also said that heavy-duty trucks could potentially be 1800-2000 kg lighter by increasing aluminum usage in various applications.

"Aluminum plays a critical role in making vehicles safer, cleaner, and more fuel efficient, but it also provides cost savings for OEMS because of increased payload, reduced maintenance, and longer service life, because aluminum is less corrosive than steel and is fully recyclable," said Scheps.

Aluminum's Cradle to Cradle Sustainability
Scheps also pointed out the sustainability aspects of aluminum and the metal's significant benefits in both the use stage and in the recycling stage of a vehicle.

"Aluminum is greener than ever. It can be recycled endlessly with no degradation. Fifty billion used beverage cans are recycled into auto and truck parts in the U.S. every year; recycling one ton of metal saves 9 tons of CO2; and over 90% of aluminum used in vehicles is recycled today."