Without question, regulatory pressure is the driving force behind these new demands. The most obvious and yet most complicated way to lighten up a vehicle is in both the exterior and structural components. The development of lightweight materials that are suitable for use in structural applications is what will provide the greatest weight savings overall. This segment alone will account for nearly three-quarters of total average vehicle weight reduction through 2023. Body and frame applications just by themselves account for about half of that number. According to the research, interior applications are relatively unaffected going forward because plastics have long been lighter weight and really have nowhere to go. Meaning, if you make them any lighter you would be able to see through them, which might be something to think about if there was something interesting to look at within that doesn’t add any more weight as wiring and trick lighting would. So unfortunately, for the interior industry in plastic, growth is not a part of their projections.
Aluminum and high-strength steel represent the primary lightweight materials employed in this market. It’s projected that aluminum will enjoy rapid growth in exterior and structural applications, as automakers explore the adoption of this material in place of steel for body components such as closures and panels.
In addition, automakers will closely follow Ford’s highly publicized switch to aluminum for the body of its 2015 F-150 pickup to determine whether they too will make a similar move. According to the study, high-strength steel is predicted to offer the best opportunities for growth based on its relatively low cost and the ongoing development of new grades that provide a combination of exceptional strength and its ease of forming into the design needed, which will make it the material of choice for structure and frame applications.