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April 14, 2010
International Study Confirms Aluminum Advantage
Finds Aluminum Best for Energy, Emissions Savings in Automotive
NEW YORK--Alcoa (NYSE:AA) today praised a new study concluding that lightweight,
strong and infinitely recyclable aluminum is the best choice for
reducing energy usage and emissions over an automobile’s lifecycle.
The study was conducted as part of the Magnesium Front End Research and
Development project, an initiative tasked with developing technologies
to grow the use of magnesium in automobiles. The study concluded that
utilizing aluminum results in lower lifecycle energy and GHG emissions
than steel or magnesium for all scenarios. Aluminum’s “breakeven
distance” is less than 36,000 km (only 16,300 miles), highlighting
aluminum’s vehicle mass reduction and recycling benefits.
“In the current state of technology and within the lifetime of the
vehicle, aluminum has a better (energy) performance...,” the study
The study was presented at the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE)
World Congress in Detroit this week. The authors, from Natural Resources
Canada, GreenhouseGasMeasurement.com, Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
Australia Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization,
and Beijing University of Technology, compared the energy and
environmental impacts of using aluminum, steel or magnesium-based front
end parts on a General Motors Cadillac CTS.
The study took a “cradle to cradle” approach, looking at the impact of
materials choices from production through the use phase of the vehicle
to recycling at the end of the vehicle’s life. Cradle to cradle is a
more comprehensive analysis model which includes a review of the product
through the end of its life, but also evaluates whether the product is
actually re-used or recycled. Aluminum is infinitely recyclable and can
be converted directly back into new parts without degradation versus
other materials which are simply down-cycled.
“Overall large magnesium structural parts can provide environmental
benefits in terms of energy use and GHG emissions vis-à-vis steel within
the expected life of the car. But overall, the aluminum design is still
better achieving the breakeven distance from energy use and GHG
emissions perspectives within the vehicle life,” the study stated.
The Magnesium Front End Research and Development project is sponsored by
Natural Resources Canada, the Chinese Ministry of Science and
Technology, the United States Department of Energy and the United States
Automotive Materials Partnership. A copy of the report is available at http://www.alcoa.com/magnesiumlca.
Alcoa is the world’s leading producer of primary aluminum, fabricated
aluminum and 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 eight consecutive years and approximately
75 percent of all of the aluminum ever produced since 1888 is still in
active use today. Alcoa employs approximately 59,000 people in 31
countries across the world. More information can be found at www.alcoa.com.