From Boosting Gas Mileage to Fighting Global Warming, College Engineers Demonstrate Auto Aluminum's Performance Advantages

Jun 14, 2001, 01:00 ET from Aluminum Association

    WASHINGTON, June 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Against the backdrop of rising gas
 prices and continued focus on global warming, automakers today are working to
 increase fuel economy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, while also
 maintaining the vehicle size that consumers demand for both safety and
 convenience.  Working to address such real-world issues, teams of college
 students recently rose to that challenge in a competition to redesign and
 modify sport-utility vehicles for maximum fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
     As part of the 2001 FutureTruck Challenge, in a competition against 14
 other top engineering schools from North America, students from the University
 of Wisconsin-Madison won the Innovations in Aluminum design award.
 FutureTruck is a cooperative effort among auto industry, government and
 academia to solve vehicle environmental and energy related issues.  The
 Aluminum Association, Inc. is a FutureTruck sponsor and bestows the
 Innovations in Aluminum awards to teams that make best use of the metal to
 enhance vehicle environmental performance.
     The University of Wisconsin-Madison team converted their Chevy Suburban
 SUV into a diesel-electric hybrid, which used a lightweight, yet-high
 strength, aluminum underbody frame (and other aluminum components) to offset
 the added weight from the hybrid technology.  The result is a Chevy Suburban
 that gets approximately 28 miles per gallon (up from approximately 17 miles
 per gallon), and it weighs about 500 pounds less than the production model --
 all the more dramatic, considering the added weight produced from the heavy
 batteries and electric motors employed in the modified Suburban.
     In part due to its lighter weight and improved fuel economy, the Wisconsin
 team's Suburban also emitted the least carbon dioxide from the tailpipe --
 such emissions are thought to contribute to global warming.
     "This competition shows, once again, that the use of advanced powertrain
 technologies requires safe, efficient and low weight materials to offset the
 added weight that goes with either gas/diesel-electric hybrid or fuel cell
 technologies -- and aluminum's performance advantages make it the clear
 material of choice.  The Wisconsin students have shown that reducing vehicle
 weight with aluminum is a highly effective way to boost fuel economy and cut
 emissions, especially in SUVs," said Dr. Richard Klimisch, Vice President,
 Auto and Light Truck Group, The Aluminum Association, speaking yesterday in
 Washington, DC, where the competition's finalists gathered to display their
     The Georgia Institute of Technology earned second place in the Innovations
 in Aluminum design for highlighting the benefits, versatility and ease of
 replacing traditional components with aluminum.  The Georgia Tech students
 replaced their Suburban's engine with a Vortec 4,200 aluminum engine and
 converted a number of other components to aluminum, as well.
     Overall, the use of aluminum by the student teams to improve environmental
 performance reflects real-world trends.  Aluminum use doubled in autos over
 the past decade (and tripled in the lucrative light truck market), and it
 recently passed plastic in terms of overall vehicle content.  GM recently
 announced that all of its V8 light truck engines will switch from iron to
 aluminum and, combined with new "displacement-on-demand" technology, it will
 help boost fuel efficiency by up to 25 percent.  Ford has also committed to
 increasing the fuel economy of its light trucks and within most leading car
 companies, aluminum will undoubtedly have an even greater role in the future.
     Aluminum played a significant role in the FutureTruck competition, due to
 its many environmental performance advantages, including:
     * A six to eight percent fuel savings can be realized for every 10 percent
       weight reduction by substituting aluminum for much heavier steel.
     * Each pound of aluminum replacing two pounds of steel can save a net 20
       pounds of carbon dioxide equivalents over the typical lifetime of a
     * Nearly 90 percent of automotive aluminum is currently recovered and
     Klimisch concluded, "The college engineering students' use of aluminum in
 this competition mirrors aluminum's growing use by the auto industry.  As
 automakers pursue even more advanced and environmentally friendly vehicles,
 aluminum's phenomenal growth should continue to climb.  This is good news for
 both automakers and consumers alike because automotive aluminum is the
 performance advantage."
     A proud sponsor of FutureTruck, The Aluminum Association, based in
 Washington, D.C., with offices in Detroit, Mich., represents primary producers
 of aluminum, recyclers and producers of semi-fabricated products.  Member
 companies operate almost 200 plants in 37 states.
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SOURCE Aluminum Association