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May 2004

Alcan Proclaims Aluminum to Become Preferred Material by Automakers

Novi, MI— According to a recent technical presentation by Alcan Automotive engineers at the SAE World Congress, new alloys and fabrication technologies are leading automakers to choose aluminum as the preferred material to ensure the safety of vehicles and their occupants.

Using aluminum fabrication reduces both development time and costs when compared with traditional steel usage, according to the report. New aluminum design concepts can be developed and tested within a few months, thanks to the low cost of extrusion tools and the short lead times for tool manufacturing. Aluminum designs are highly flexible and can be quickly modified for specific requirements.

The specific characteristics of aluminum alloys offer possibilities for designing cost-effective lightweight structures with high stiffness and excellent crash-energy absorption.

In bumper modules, aluminum’s 30 to 50 percent lighter weight, compared to steel, results in significantly lower fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Reduced weight at both the front and rear of the vehicle also reduces axle load, particularly in the front, which improves driving comfort and performance and, in part, counterbalances the trend to larger engines.

Modern aluminum bumpers can absorb 100% of the crash energy in a low-speed impact up to 5 mph with no damage to the vehicle structure. The addition of a deformable crash box can provide further energy absorption, helping to keep structural damage to a minimum at speeds of up to 10 mph.

Successful aluminum-intensive vehicles include the Audi A8, which boasts an aluminum spaceframe that incorporates large structural die castings and bent extruded profiles. The Jaguar XJ has a distinctive aluminum sheet-intensive monocoque body structure, and the BMW 5-series and 6-series are crafted with an all-aluminum front end. All-aluminum body concepts can deliver up to 40% weight reduction while maintaining or even improving the safety of the passengers.

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