In the classic Chevrolet Truck commercial, the iconic phrase is well known: “Like a rock,” which describes the vehicle’s fortitude. Soon enough, automobile advertisers will need to present a fresh saying—one about the flight of aluminum. Since Ford unveiled plans at the January 2014 Detroit auto show to construct the 2015 F-150 aluminum truck, other vehicles have adopted the trend: to point, Jaguar and Audi. Recognized as one of the most rugged, dependable and popular trucks on the market for three decades, Ford definitely got the wheels spinning for an auto industry evolution.

Why is aluminum being used to make automobiles?

One impetus was federal legislation, which now holds automobile creators accountable for helping to enhance the U.S. fuel economy. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) teamed up to develop the National Program for greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), which includes new fuel standards. The guidelines require changes for light duty cars and trucks that will rollout in two phases: first, in model years 2012-2016, followed by a 2017-2025 change-out. By 2025, the result should be fuel economy improvements that are equivalent to an average 54.5 miles per gallon fleetwide. The plan is projected to save Americans more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce the country’s oil use by more than 2 million barrels per day, according to the EPA.

What does aluminum mean for automobile makers?

Aluminum is more expensive than steel—but it weighs less, which will help vehicles save fuel and meet new federal regulations. Automakers are also changing the size of vehicles and tinkering with engines to help reach fuel standards. Additionally, company facilities will require some makeovers, too. For more than 18 months, Ford has been converting its two F-150 factories that make the aluminum truck, which has tallied as the longest, most arduous turnover in recent automobile history, points out Jeff Schuster—an analyst at consultant LMC Automotive in Southfield, Michigan—in a recent Bloomberg Business interview.

Aluminum recycling improves manufacturing costs for Ford

Ford has also been improving its manufacturing process—through optimizing aluminum recycling methods. Ultimately, those enhancements have helped the company to improve overall production costs. Makers saved $124 per pickup truck compared to traditional recycling methods, and decreased the total per-truck bill by $750 in the switch to aluminum, notes an article on Car and Driver. Those methods include adopting pneumatic scrap recycling equipment and using different grades and thicknesses of aluminum, according to the article. As automobile facilities continue to adopt aluminum and alter manufacturing spaces, machinery such as General Kinematics’ scrap processing equipment secondary sorting solutions for scrap recovery—which increases sorting efficiency and scrap purity levels—will be next, and needed, to join the evolution.
« | »
  • Amy Donahue

    Test