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    Life cycle thinking reduces emissions

How automakers use new steel to improve emissions

Blog story - January 2016

Today’s car buyers are savvier than ever. When making a purchasing decision, affordability and reliability have always been key factors, but environmental impact is one factor that’s increasingly shaping their purchase decisions.

When a car is driven, it emits carbon dioxide (CO2) gases that contribute to pollution – and the heavier the car, the greater the emissions. As environmental regulations grow more stringent, automakers are addressing the problem by designing new technologies to lighten their vehicles and thereby decrease driving phase greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Advanced high strength steels (AHSS) are proving to be vital in helping carmakers gain these weight savings to achieve their emission-reduction goals. That’s why more and more vehicles feature these new steels, from the Chevy Silverado and Opel Astra, to the Volvo XC90 with its record amount of hot-stamping steel – named truck of the year at the 2016 North American International Auto Show.

But the emissions produced when consumers drive a car are just one part of the equation. To fully understand the carbon footprint of a vehicle, it’s important to consider the vehicle’s entire life cycle – including the manufacturing, driving and recycling of the vehicle.

Automotive life cycle analysis has shown that steel is the most sustainable automotive material, and that steel-intensive vehicles result in lower total life cycle GHG emissions than vehicles utilising alternative materials.

Steel manufacturing uses less energy and emits fewer CO2 gases per ton than alternative materials. What’s more, the material’s infinite recyclability and mature recycling infrastructure significantly add to its sustainability.

In other words, while other materials may result in a lighter-weight design, overall they increase the total carbon footprint of a vehicle.

To demonstrate the benefits of steel in creating a lighter, safer and more environmentally-friendly vehicle, ArcelorMittal has developed a concept for automakers. The project, S-in motion®, is a catalogue of commercially-available steel solutions available to automakers to help them reduce the weight of cars and trucks while maintaining crash safety.

These solutions result in little or no cost increase to customers and help to provide more affordable environmentally friendly vehicles for the 21st century.

But the “S” in “S-in motion®” stands for much more than steel alone:

  • Safety. The project design kept safety in mind. The concept vehicles underwent multiple industry tests, performing above industry safety performance standards. Most test results reached or exceeded the highest test ratings.
  • Saving weight. In order to achieve maximum benefits, maximum weight reduction had to occur. Using the lightest steel solutions created by the S-in motion® project, results show a 22% body-in-white (BIW) weight reduction in the C-segment vehicle from the 2009 baseline and a 23% reduction from the 2013 pickup truck and 2015 D-segment car baseline.
  • Saving costs. S-in motion® offers a cost-effective solution for automakers to display the high value of steel. The weight reductions are gained with little or no cost increase, allowing design goals to be achieved without high cost penalties associated with use of alternative materials.
  • Sustainability. Most importantly, the biggest benefit of the S-in motion® program is its sustainability. For the C-segment vehicle, results show a 14% reduction of overall total lifecycle CO2 emissions.
  • Service. These solutions were not created for future vehicles – they were designed for today’s vehicles. All S-in motion® solutions are commercially-available for vehicles currently on the road.
  • Strength. The S-in motion® solutions never compromise the strength of steel vehicles. We applied some of the strongest steels used in today’s automotive production. The result is steel that is an efficient and strong material for light-weighting and occupant protection. Solutions. The concept includes various solutions for a variety of parts in C-segment cars, D-segment cars and SUVs, battery electric vehicles (BEVs), and full-size pickup trucks. The solutions use different steels to construct the body and parts for an overall lighter, safer, and greener vehicle.

As consumers make smarter automotive choices, we are confident they recognise the value and sustainability of a car made with new steels.

By Blake Zuidema, Director Automotive Product Applications, ArcelorMittal Global R&D


Related info

ArcelorMittal's automotive solutions

Overview of our S-in motion® solutions - click for more info