Aluminum in cars

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  • Publicado : 10 de febrero de 2011
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INTRODUCTION
The use of Aluminium actually in developing cars is growing because of its properties and the technology that in the few last years has been improved. This is the reason for this essay: to discuss the actual use of aluminium alloys now and its future, and the projects that have been carried out. But before all that, let’s take a look at the background, why and when the use ofaluminium in cars started.

BACKGROUND:
To understand this essay, I must explain some facts and backgrounds of this issue. Also, I include an explanation of the aluminium manufacturing process, to understand why the weight difference between an aluminium and a steel car is ½, and why the use of aluminium in cars is better.
When car companies started to look for an alternative metal to build cars,they found aluminium, because of its properties. But the property that called their attention was the density. The aluminium (in general) has 1/3 of the density of steel, which means a new car with a weight of 1/3 of the old one! That was the theory. But in the real world, they found that the aluminium is not as strong as the steel, and is not as easy to work with as well. So the ideal of build acar just with aluminium was negated: “…the reason why aluminium is not used today in structural applications is an accident of history. When the modern, spot-welded steel structures were first introduced, sheet aluminium was in its infancy and, thus, was not available as a viable alternative material to steel”…[2]. This doesn’t mean that experiments and projects were not done. On the contrary,the engineers believed (and now is a fact) that there was a way to build and actually use the aluminium in cars.
The first uses of aluminium were in non bearing components, such as hoods and doors; all external parts, and some of the engine parts, such as the piston, the radiator… but never used to build the frame. After this attempts, a new car was built from sheet aluminium, the Dyna-Panhard(1950’s), “…where the whole body structure, including the floor pan, was built from formed and spot-welded aluminium panels…”[2]. From this time, a decision was made: because of the part-by-part change from steel to aluminium adoption was achieving good results, the development of a specific technique for aluminium was needed.
At the beginning of the developing of a design and manufacturing systemfor building aluminium structural frames, a few requirements were set to assure that the new car had more advantages than the old steel one. “These requirements, briefly, were:
- a lighter car,
- Costs minimised (no more than the steel construction).
- The develop of a new joining technique.
- The resulting vehicle structure should be highly corrosion resistant.”[2]

To deal with theseproblems, a different manufacturing system was developed by Alcan International and Gaydon Technology, and it was called the Aluminium Structured Vehicle Technology (ASVT), which it is covered and explain later in this essay.

If we take a look at the history, we can find different examples of aluminium cars: the Land Rover, the UPS vehicle, and the United States postal vehicle, to coat a fewexamples. But the aim of the ASVT goes further, and actually, “GM and The Aluminium Company (ALU) have made a deal, in which the ALU will maintain the aluminium coiled alloy price (it will be very slightly changes), and in exchange, GM will have to buy a certain amount of that aluminium”[6]. This means that GM is starting an aluminium vehicles production.
Another prove of this technology is the newAudi A8. This is a full equipped(ABS brake system, intelligent suspension), big, low-fuel consumption new car, comparable with any BMW 7-serie, with an affordable price. The reason of this price is because the whole frame is made of aluminium, and this doesn’t only mean less money expended in metal, but also less weight. And if the car is lighter, the engine is smaller, and therefore the fuel...
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