The Guest Blog

Guest blog post by Patrik Ragnarsson, Senior Manager Automotive & Transport Group at European Aluminium.

Following the historic COP21 agreement, European car manufacturers will have to use every tool in their toolbox in order to meet its specific emissions targets in a cost-efficient way. Looking back, much of the focus has been on improvements to engine efficiency and to some extent on downsizing engines. Although electrification will undoubtedly play a large role in the future, the obvious but often overlooked solution is lightweighting. From diesel to electric, lightweighting makes all cars more efficient. The beauty of lightweighting is that it reduces the energy needed to drive any vehicle from A to B.

Aluminium has been used for years to lightweight cars: most cars today have aluminium wheels and aluminium components in the engine. Some companies, like Audi and Jaguar Land Rover, were early pioneers and produced full aluminium cars decades ago. Recently we have seen more and more car manufacturers adopting aluminium designs to lightweight their cars. Aluminium is now commonly used in doors, hoods, bumpers, roof rails and in many other applications. The designs might differ but they all have one thing in common: the aluminium part is much lighter than the comparable steel part.

A study published recently by consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide predicts that the amount of aluminium used in cars could see a significant increase by 2025. The study predicts that the aluminium content of cars produced in Europe could reach nearly 200 kg per vehicle by 2025, up from 150 kg today. This will contribute substantially to reducing CO2 emissions and improving fuel efficiency. In fact, using 200 kg of aluminium in a car could reduce CO2 emissions by up to 16 grams per kilometre travelled. With the 2014 average at 123g/km, increasing the aluminium content in cars could help EU car manufacturers to achieve more ambitious targets in the future.

Lightweighting has the potential to bring about low emission mobility. But for this shift to take place, CO2 regulation in the EU needs to encourage lightweighting just as much as other efficiency technologies, like aerodynamics or engine efficiency improvements. Today’s weight-based standard for CO2 limits not only insufficiently incentivises lightweight solutions, it even penalises them by favouring other technologies. Instead, we should move to a size-based standard to unlock the potential of lightweighting.

Europe needs lighter vehicles to further decarbonise the transport sector. Lighter vehicles mean better energy efficiency and fewer CO2 emissions, answering the European Commission’s Strategy for Low Emission Mobility. By removing current policy deterrents, such as the mass based standard for CO2 limits, EU policy makers can trigger a large-scale transition to lighter vehicles and, consequently, a low emission future.

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