This should be good news for stock investors in steel companies. Yes, steel is not going away no matter how many electric vehicles (EVs) are planned; and reducing mass and emissions are possible even with steel.
No matter which conference this reporter attends, from the SAE World Congress in Detroit to the Business of Plugging In (CAR) in Dearborn; and, most recently, Engine Expo and The Battery Show in Novi, Michigan, materials like steel always comes up in presentations with regard to safety and energy for automobiles. The general thinking is that lightweight for vehicles demands aluminum, and plenty of it, which explains why many EVs cost so much; aside from lithium-ion batteries, of course.
When you think of safety, though, you might think of high-strength steel (HSS) and advanced-high-strength steel (AHSS). However, how many people really associate steel with energy savings? Not many; and that’s why the FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) program is so important to the industry in light of its drive toward vehicles with lower mass.
Autosteel.org is also quick to point out that alternative materials, such as aluminum, magnesium and carbon fiber produce emissions during their manufacture that are five to 20 times greater than steel. That is why the organization says government and the auto industry needs to shift the basis of vehicle emissions regulations from tailpipe emissions to a total life cycle assessment (LCA).
In the quest for more environmentally friendly vehicles, the FSV Program believes it is necessary to rethink the design of the car to host fundamentally different powertrains such as hybrid, electric and fuel cell systems, and to ensure that the structure is as environmentally efficient as its powertrain. By the way, every study like this carries the same theme: think outside the old box, so to speak.
The FutureSteelVehicle (FSV) program is a multi-million dollar, three-year program that delivers safe, lightweight AHSS body structures that address radically different requirements for advanced powertrains and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the vehicle’s entire life cycle. FSV addresses the increased value of mass reduction with solutions that demonstrate steel as the material of choice for future vehicle structures.
The target for this research is the 2015-2025 timeframe, whereby the government has mandated new fuel economy targets, such as 54.5 MPG by 2025.
The Latest FSV Program
The FSV program is the most recent addition to the global steel industry’s series of lightweight initiatives offering steel solutions to automakers around the world. FSV follows the 1998 UltraLight Steel Auto Body, 2000 UltraLight Steel Auto Closures, 2000 UltraLight Steel Auto Suspension, and 2001 ULSAB-Advanced Vehicle Concepts programs.
In total, this body of research represents an $80 million investment by the global steel industry, comprised of comprised of seventeen major global steel producers from around the world:
- Anshan Iron & Steel Group Corporation
- ArcelorMittal (MT)
- Baoshan Iron & Steel Co. Ltd.
- China Steel Corporation
- Hyundai-Steel Company
- JFE Steel Corporation
- Kobe Steel, Ltd. (KBSTY)
- Nippon Steel Corporation (NISTY)
- Nucor Corporation (NYSE: NUE)
- POSCO (PKX)
- Sumitomo Metal Industries, Ltd.
- Tata Steel (TATLY)
- ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe AG (SE-AG)
- United States Steel Corporation (USS)
- Usinas Siderurgicas de Minas Gerais S.A.
- voestalpine Stahl GmbH
Designing Within the FSV Program
WorldAutoSteel commissioned EDAG, Inc., Auburn Hills, Mich., to conduct an advanced powertrain technology assessment, and to provide vehicle design and program engineering management for the FSV program.
EDAG was not alone, though, as its engineering partners Engineering Technologies Associates Inc. and LMS Engineering Services applied a holistic approach to vehicle layout design. Together they used advanced future powertrains and created a new vehicle architecture that offers mass efficient, steel-intensive solutions.
For the record, the future advanced powertrains that have major influence on vehicle layout and body structure architecture include, battery electric vehicles (BEV), plug-In hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) and fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV).
It is interesting that nowhere in the study does anyone consider the latest gains in IC engine technology, like Ford’s downsizing using EcoBoost or the upcoming potential of the split-cycle engines of Scuderi Engine and Tour Engine.
Regardless of the propulsion system, though, the innovations of future automotive design still need to exploit steel’s versatility and strength. For example, it is steel’s design flexibility that makes it the best to attain award-winning, state-of-the-future design optimization process that develops non-intuitive solutions for structural performance.
According to the program’s information via autosteel.org , the resulting optimized shapes and component configurations often mimic Mother Nature’s own design efficiency, whereby structure and strength is placed exactly where it is needed for the intended function.
The FSV material portfolio includes dual phase (DP), TRIP, TWIP, complex phase, and hot formed steels, which reach into Giga-Pascal strength levels and are the newest in steel technology offered by the global industry. These steels answer the call of automakers for stronger, yet formable steels needed for lighter structures that meet increasing crash requirements and are evidence of steel’s continual reinvention of itself to meet automotive design challenges.
FSV’s steel portfolio is utilized with the aid of full vehicle analysis to determine material grade and thickness optimization. Consequently, FSV vehicles are deemed very efficient and very light weight as well.
More specifically, there is a 35% reduction in weight as compared to today’s body structures. Furthermore, there is no degradation or compromise on safety and performance.
For example, the FSV program brings yet more advanced steel and steel technologies to its portfolio. Consequently this enlarges the tool sets of automotive engineers around the world, including more than 20 new AHSS grades, representing materials expected to be commercially available in the 2015 to 2020 technology horizon.
Three Key Bottom Line Items
ENABLES 5-STAR SAFETY RATINGS: Included as an integral part of the design optimization process are crash analyses according to a set of stringent analyses that encompass the most severe global requirements. FSV meets or exceeds the structural requirements for each of these analyses, and thereby enables the achievement of five-star safety ratings in final production vehicles.
REDUCES TOTAL LIFETIME EMISSIONS BY NEARLY 70%: This is the surprise that most do not realize.. The data shows that, using the U.S. energy grid and the previously noted production vehicle comparison, AHSS combined with an electrified power train reduces total life cycle emissions by 56%. In regions where energy grid sources are more efficient, such as Europe, this grows to nearly 70% reduction in total life cycle emissions.
REDUCES MASS AND EMISSIONS AT NO COST PENALTY: Dramatic mass reduction is achieved at no cost penalty over current steel body structures. According to the report, the FSV BEV can be manufactured and assembled for an estimated cost of $1,115.
For more information, you may visit www.autosteel.org
Full Disclosure: At time of publication, Sherosky, creator of the auto sector charts for TN, is neither long or short with the mentioned stocks or futures, though positions can change at any time. None of the information in this article constitutes a recommendation, but an assessment or opinion.
About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: [email protected] or via his Twitter i.d. @Authorfranks
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