DuckerFrontier Managing Director, Markus Pfefferer recently spoke at the Global Automotive Lightweighting Summit in Shanghai, China. He presented on global lightweighting trends across the entire auto industry, including the electric vehicle space. Here are the key takeaways from the presentation.

Global Trends

Global regulations are the largest driver for demand in lightweighting. We see three areas where regulations will demand compliance: powertrain, materials (body structures/chassis), and design/aerodynamics. Closing the regulatory compliance gap is a multi-step process:

  • Level 1: Material Substitution: One to one part/material substitution for closures, bumpers, knuckles, control arms, etc.
  • Level 2: Holistic Weight Saving Designs: Parts consolidation, multi-form & multi-material for subframes, front end modules, shock towers, door rings, etc.
  • Level 3: Aesthetic Elements: Glazing/glass, coatings, interiors, etc.

Ferrous materials in its various forms together with aluminum made up nearly 75% of the materials mix in the average 2018 light vehicle. When comparing material content from 2013 to 2018, the steel overall percentage remains consistent, while aluminum, polymers and other metals begin to gain share. Aluminum content takes some share away from iron content, while advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) content replaces mild steel. In some cases, AHSS replaces high-speed steel in applications where geometry and formability can be addressed with advanced grades of steel.

Structural vehicle dynamic control (VDC) shows the most promising growth trajectory in addition to sheet. While high pressure die casting (HPDC) and permanent mold/sand castings are declining primarily due to downsizing and some conversion to CGI (compacted graphite iron) for engine blocks, structural HPDC and extrusion applications show tremendous potential.

We expect that AHSS, UHSS and Gen3 materials will grow at a tremendous pace. Controlled deformation, high rigidity (limited deformation) and associated weights savings are the fundamental properties driving the growth and proliferation of advanced grades of steel.

Lightweighting in EV

Electric vehicle motivations vary by region, particularly across the United States, the EU, and China. In China specifically, EV incentives encourage material and technology upgrades. These incentives resulted in increased advanced battery technology, deliberate use of aluminum to increase range, and premium vehicle advancement for Chinese OEM.

Eventually, the cost and/or desirability of electric vehicles will reach the point where most other technologies, including mass reduction, will not be needed to reduce CO2 tailpipe emissions in non-electric vehicles and to increase the range of electric vehicles.

DuckerFrontier’s automotive experts have been at the forefront of industry trends for decades. We recently published an executive summary around the impact of vehicle electrification across the industry. If you and your company want to capture the exciting growth potential for your products and services related to lightweighting and electric vehicles, please contact our auto team.

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