Delivering environmental and safety benefits in the automotive sector
The weight of a car is key to its fuel efficiency, but it’s a challenge to improve efficiency while also ensuring safety and recyclability. We have made this challenge central to our product development strategy.
In 2012, the Obama Administration announced Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and greenhouse gas standards that will require a doubled fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon (MPG) for the 2025 vehicle fleet. This standard is not being met by powertrain improvements alone – manufacturers are looking to decrease vehicle weight to boost fuel economy. ArcelorMittal is currently the leading steel provider by market share to the world’s automotive market, with a strong presence in the United States. As the automotive industry is one of our major stakeholders, we are dedicated to developing new products and steel solutions that meet the ever-changing needs of the industry.
For example, ArcelorMittal has collected evidence further demonstrating the potential of advanced steel products in helping automakers meet the CAFE standards of 54.5 MPG by 2025. Specifically, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) modeling, advanced high strength steels (AHSS) can deliver vehicle light-weighting benefits at a lower cost to the consumer and with less environmental impact than alternative solutions such as aluminum, magnesium or carbon fiber. The EPA and NHTSA models show that the weight reduction achieved with current and emerging AHSS products, combined with the improvements in powertrain technologies anticipated by the EPA and NHTSA, can get vehicles to the new 54.5 MPG standards.
The models further show that the weight reduction offered by AHSS provides one of the largest improvements in fuel economy, and the single largest improvement in efficiency per dollar spent than any other known fuel economy improvement technology. Most important to the purpose of the CAFE standards, AHSS create a lower life cycle carbon footprint vehicle than one manufactured from other, more energy and emissions-intensive alternatives such as aluminum or carbon fiber. The production of one ton of aluminum requires five times the energy required to make one ton of AHSS. As a result, steel provides automakers with an opportunity to create a lower life cycle carbon footprint vehicle than one manufactured from aluminum or carbon fiber. In addition, an aluminum car requires twice the amount of CO2 to manufacture than a car made of AHSS, since the body structure accounts for about one third of the curb weight of a typical vehicle.
Some AHSS products have multiplied in strength by almost 10 times over the past 20 years. This is a phenomenal change for the material that is also the most recycled material in the world. Many of our innovations have been the result of our close, long-term partnerships with automotive customers. By understanding and meeting our customers' needs, we create viable new products for the market as a whole. Our advanced and ultra-high strength steels are part of a full range of steel grades available to the automotive industry to help achieve lightweighting goals without compromising safety.
The case of tailored blanks
ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, is a unique supplier to the automotive industry. From this business unit, we supply tailor welded flat carbon steel of different grades and coatings to the automotive stamping market, providing our customers the ability to conveniently balance cost, weight and performance in their vehicles.
ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks, a subsidiary of ArcelorMittal, is a unique supplier to the automotive industry. From this business unit, we supply tailor welded flat carbon steel of different grades and coatings to the automotive stamping market, providing our customers the ability to conveniently balance cost, weight and performance in their vehicles. Through the product we supply and the processes we use in this division, we are making significant impacts on sustainability, both in the industry and for the general public.
“Our entire business is centered on providing sustainable choices to our customers,” says Todd Baker, the group’s President. With the corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards requiring auto makers to reach an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, the industry is actively searching for innovative ways to reduce the weight and improve fuel economy in their vehicles. Tailored blanks are a large part of this equation. With this cost effective lightweight product, we not only assist our customers in taking significant strides toward meeting the CAFE standards, but also offer opportunities to improve the performance of their parts.
“One of the major reasons a customer decides to utilize a laser welded blank is because of its ability to reduce the weight of an already existing component, while not significantly decreasing performance or increasing cost,” Todd says. The door ring currently being supplied to Acura for the Honda MDX clearly demonstrates the balance Todd is discussing. The door ring reduced the weight of the vehicle by 3.5 kilograms and dramatically improved its crash performance, receiving a top safety pick plus rating by the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. These innovative products are playing a significant role in the sustainability of everyday life, but this focus on the environment does not end there.
Over the past three years, ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks has actively undergone technology upgrades to reduce impact on the environment. By upgrading older laser technology to new state of the art fiber lasers, we have seen a significant decrease in energy usage. When combining all current upgrades, the division has reduced energy consumption by 75%; saving enough energy to power 650 homes per year. In conjunction with retroactively upgrading older equipment, this technology has set as a standard across the division, ensuring all new equipment is at the height of energy efficiency in their industry.
“It is imperative that we extend this focus on sustainability past the products we offer our customers and integrate sustainability into our manufacturing processes”, explains Todd. These upgrades represent a significant capital investment that helps the company achieve the goal of producing safe sustainable steel.
The focus on sustainable steel permeates even deeper than technology and products, with 99% of waste at ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks being recycled material. This high percentage of recycled waste is attributed to two things; raw material and energy efficient processes. Steel is 100% recyclable and plays a dramatic role in this achievement, as any waste from cutting, trimming or discarding parts is 100% recycled. It is also clear that the process the division uses to create value-added products does not contribute significantly to unsustainable waste. Todd identifies, “although a majority of our waste is recycled, we continually look for innovative ways to understand and improve how we manage and account for our waste.” Todd is referring to the internal initiative to separate steel from other sources of waste. This will allow more accurate analysis of the 1% of non-recyclable waste and find new and innovative ways to drive toward a goal of zero waste.
The ArcelorMittal Tailored Blanks Division is a great example of ways different business units in ArcelorMittal play a significant role in reducing our impact on the environment. Todd said it best, “We have a significantly high percentage of recycled waste, we have dramatically reduced the amount of energy we use and we create a product that directly impacts the sustainability of everyday life.”