May 22, 2008

Aluminum-Intensive Audi A8 TeamHonored as European Inventors of the Year

The European Commission and the European Patent Office awarded the Audi team with the prize for their use of high-strength, low-weight aluminum to build lighter, more fuel efficient and safer vehicles. Alcoa partnered with Audi in the early 1990s on the aluminum-intensive automobile project.

“The A8 marked the first time that design engineers looked at integrating light-weighting with stiffness for superior handling and crashworthiness to the highest standards for the whole car,” said Mohammad Zaidi, executive vice president of Market Strategy, Technology and Quality. “This dramatically changed the way that car companies think about body structure and has positioned Alcoa as the best company in the world for light-weighing solutions.”

The Audi A8 spaceframe, jointly developed by Audi and Alcoa, employed 40 new patents, a number of new alloys, and several new design and production techniques. Also, Alcoa commissioned a new plant in Soest, Germany, to produce the A8 spaceframes. The Soest plant was the first plant of its kind worldwide dedicated to the production of components and assemblies for aluminum primary and secondary body structures. Each car-set included 47 extruded components, 50 cast components, and 15 sub-assemblies.

The Audi team won the European Inventor of the Year Award in the Industry category. The awards were presented earlier this month at a ceremony in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The winners were selected by an independent, high-profile jury, recognizing inventions that have had a significant impact on people's lives and have been patented by the EPO.

The Audi A8 is 50 percent lighter than its non-aluminum predecessor, yet achieves a 60 percent increase in torsional rigidity offering drivers better handling. The also recently received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-star crash rating. Automotive aluminum also offers manufacturers and consumers benefits, such as:

  • A 5 to 7 percent fuel savings for every 10 percent weight reduction by using aluminum instead of steel; and 
  • Nearly twice as much crash energy absorption as steel, enabling designs that fold predictably during a crash, letting the vehicle - not its passengers - absorb more of the crash force.