In 2014, the global automotive industry (excluding China) consumed 2.87 mln tonnes of aluminium. By 2020, this is expected to reach up to 4.49 mln tonnes. The growth of aluminium consumption in this sector is due to increased car production, and a higher percentage of aluminium being used in the said production.
Every kilogram of aluminium used to manufacture cars lowers the total weight of the vehicle. Therefore, more and more car parts are being made with aluminium, such as radiator systems for engine cooling, wheel rims, bumpers, suspension parts, engine blocks, transmission bodies and finally, bodywork parts, such as bonnets, doors, and even frames.
Since the 1970s, the amount of aluminium used to manufacture automobiles has increased from 35kg to 152kg. Experts predict that by 2025 the average amount of aluminium in one car will reach 250kg.
The main methods to produce auto parts are casting and stamping from rolled aluminium sheets and strips. Some of them, however, are manufactured using an unusual method of hot pressing fine aluminium powder known as SAP (sintered aluminium powder). The oxidised aluminium powder is placed and heated to a temperature a little lower than its melting point. It is then pressed in this heated form. After this process, the items are very malleable and are therefore used for parts that operate in high temperatures and with low levels of friction, such as piston engines.
Aluminium has a significant property in that it is excellent at absorbing impact, two times more effective than steel. Therefore, car manufacturers have been using this metal for a long time to make bumpers. Aluminium car bodies are safer than steel ones because dents and damages to aluminium structures are contained in compact areas, without damaging other parts of the bodywork and making the rest of the car safer for passengers.
Experts agree that in the next ten years, car manufactures will increase the use of aluminium in their models. The light and durable metal will either make up a significant portion of the bodywork parts or will be used to make the entire body itself.
Thereby automotive companies are in talks with aluminium producers about creating a closed-loop system, where the scraps of aluminium parts used in automobiles can be used for spare parts in new machines. It is hard to envisage a more environmental for industrial production.