Why are Aluminum Alloys Used in the Auto Industry?

Because of aluminum’s intrinsic characteristics and properties, both the passenger and commercial vehicle industries extensively utilize this metal. Why? Above all, aluminum is a lightweight material. When used in automobiles, it can significantly enhance performance and improve fuel economy. Not only that, but aluminum is strong. It is because of the strength-to-weight ratio that aluminum is so valuable in the transportation industry. Vehicular performance enhancements do not come at the compromise of safety. With its high strength and low weight, safety for drivers and passengers is improved. Let the team at Howard Precision Metals supply you with the quality aluminum products you need for your auto manufacturing requirements.

Why are Aluminum Alloys Used in the Auto Industry?

Seen here, aluminum is the second most commonly used metal in the automotive industry. Common uses include: spokes, structural components, gauges, rotors, wheels, rotors, and much, much more.

Automotive Applications

Every pound of aluminum used in an automobile, in lieu of steel, reduces the overall vehicular weight by a pound. This metal allows for safer and more efficient vehicles to enter the roadways. Over the years, aluminum has continued to increase in its popularity within the automotive manufacturing industry. Currently, it is the second most often used metal in vehicles, trailing only steel. Furthermore, this metal is versatile. It can be utilized to produce engines, transmissions, suspension, wheels, brake components, frames, magnets for tachometers and speedometers, electrical wiring, air conditioner components, and even parts of the body. Aluminum is strong, efficient, safe, recyclable, and abundant. For these reasons and more, it has become common material in automotive applications. By the year 2028, it is estimated that aluminum will account for about 16 percent of a vehicle’s total weight.

Strong and Safe

Aluminum has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than mild steel. Because of that, aluminum is often used in larger crush zones of vehicles. Using this metals in larger crush zones not only improves safety but increases performance. First, the decrease in weight allows for a shorter stopping distance. After all, we all know that a shorter stopping distance can be the difference between a near miss or a deadly collision. Secondly, when comparing metals’ strength-to-weight ratios, aluminum’s characteristics enable it to absorb twice the crash energy of mild steel. By manufacturing a vehicle’s crush zone from aluminum rather than steel, engineers can design crumple zones. This means that aluminum can be engineered to fold a very specific and predictable way in the event of a crash. Therefore, the aluminum can absorb the energy of the crash and help keep the passengers safe. This is extremely important in passenger vehicles.

With lighter vehicle weight, comes a greener product. But, you might be surprised why. This “greener” product not only comes from the tailpipe emissions. No. It comes from the entire life-cycle of energy. Yes, carbon (CO2) emissions are reduced with lighter weight vehicles and fuel efficiency is improved. However, using aluminum in manufacturing automobiles results in the lowest carbon footprint from “cradle-to-grave”. As stated earlier, most of aluminum is recycled. But did you know recycling this metal uses less energy than mining the ore?! All of this results in a decreased carbon footprint. Not only is less energy is required to produce these automobiles. But, less energy is required to operate them. It is no wonder why aluminum has become such a staple in the automotive industry.

Recyclable & More Energy Efficient

Not only is aluminum the most abundant metal on Earth, but it is the most recycled. Period. In fact, nearly 75 percent of all the aluminum manufactured in the world is still in use today. The automotive industry certainly takes advantage of this characteristic. Nearly 90 percent of all the aluminum, including automotive sheet, used in a vehicle is recycled at the end of its life. Will the cycle ever end? Not likely. Aluminum can be recycled into itself in a true closed loop. In recycling, the properties of aluminum remain unchanged. Also, the energy required to recycle aluminum is only 5 percent when compared to energy required to extract the element from ore. Abundance and recyclability are reasons aluminum is the Earth friendly option. Especially when compared to other metals, like steel.

2024: Good Strength-to-Weight Ratio & Fatigue Resistance

The 2000 series of aluminum alloys are known for strength. Alloy 2024 is just that: strong. This alloy uses copper as the major alloying element. Therefore, 2024 ranks high in the strength category. Alloy 2024 aluminum has an exceptional strength to weight ratio and excellent fatigue resistance. However, it has inferior corrosion resistance when compared to other aluminum alloys, such as 6061. This alloy has a poor rating for weld-ability and brazability. Furthermore, 2024 responds well to forming and high finish machining in the annealed condition. In addition, 2024 ranks excellently for fatigue resistance. Prime applications for 2024 aluminum in the automotive industry include: rotors, wheel spokes, structural components, and much, much more. Extremely high strength and great fatigue resistance are two reasons that alloy 2024 is utilized in the auto industry.

6061: Excellent Corrosion Resistance

When manganese and silicon are added to aluminum, the resulting alloy falls into the 6000 series. Stocked by Howard Precision Metals, the 6061 alloy is a heat treatable alloy with good corrosion resistance. This aluminum alloy is available in plate, sheet, and extrusions, including custom shapes. Used routinely in the manufacture of auto components and parts, 6061 aluminum possesses high strength-to-weight ratio. It also possesses good workability in the annealed condition. Alloy 6061 may also be fabricated effectively using a myriad of different common fabrication techniques. While not as strong as 2024, this alloy is definitely more versatile. Because of these properties, 6061 has become the “go-to” alloy for many different components in the auto manufacturing industry. Some automotive uses for the 6061 alloy include: ABS, cross members, wheels, air bags, joists, and many others.

As a 100% aluminum supplier, Haomei aluminium has the knowledge and experience to tailor custom solutions for aluminum applications. To learn more about 2024 aluminum, 6061 aluminum, or to request a quote, contact us today at [email protected] or request a quote on our website.