Aluminum: the answer in the safety vs. fuel economy debate?
After selecting the Ford Explorer as the typical SUV, the team created an aluminum version with the same crash pulse as its steel counterpart by calibrating it against the Explorer's actual NCAP (National Crash Assessment Program) results. Five hundred moderately severe crash scenarios were chosen from available crash data and tests were run and calibrated for each. "This gives an apples-to-apples comparison," says Bull. It also prevents the group from picking only those accident types that put aluminum in the best light.
Nearly 900 lb lighter than its steel counterpart, the virtual Explorer's sheet aluminum unibody accounted for 450 lb of that tally. Secondary weight reductions (lighter suspension pieces, smaller engine, etc.) made up the rest. As expected, fuel economy rose while size and safety were undiminished. The cost of this vehicle, however, also rose higher than the $1/lb automakers are willing to spend to reduce weight. "We realize the first generation of a vehicle like this is going to cost the DEM more," says Bull, "but that number will diminish in successive generations."
Bull also believes the difference can be offset by substituting aluminum for steel in an amount equal to the cost of an alternate powertrain. "Aluminum belongs in that discussion," says Bull, "because it offers many of the same fuel economy benefits, but its advantage is available under all driving conditions and for all powertrains. Unfortunately, it's often overlooked." A study comparing these approaches currently is under consideration.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Comment:||Aluminum: the answer in the safety vs. fuel economy debate?(automobiles)|
|Publication:||Automotive Design & Production|
|Date:||Aug 1, 2005|
|Previous Article:||Look what's cooking at Dana.|
|Next Article:||Nissan's intelligent plant.|