What’s your dream ride?

By Lauren Duensing

September 2013 - I wouldn’t consider myself a gearhead, but I like cars. Although my current vehicle is utilitarian and gets me from one place to another, that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about what could be parked in my garage one day—maybe a rugged Jeep or a sleek, sporty convertible. 

Daydreams like these are one of the draws of auto shows. Under one roof, consumers can look at hundreds of new models and consider whether they’d like to take the plunge and drive one home. Auto shows also are a great place to learn about automakers’ new technologies and innovations.

In this month’s cover story, senior contributing editor J. Neiland Pennington covers  the increasing use of aluminum in the Jaguar Land Rover line of vehicles, a story he began working on at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. 

As global regulations for cars become stricter, automakers are turning to lighter-weight materials, such as aluminum, composites and advanced high-strength steels to help their cars shed pounds. According to a study conducted by WardsAuto World, which surveyed more than 1,300 automotive engineers and designers, the value placed on reducing a vehicle’s weight has increased by 61 percent. And respondents indicated they think automakers are most interested in reducing weight from the chassis and fuel, followed by the powertrain and body panels. The study noted, “When asked to rate materials based on their ability to help meet new CAFE fuel economy standards, respondents rated aluminum and engineering plastics highest,” followed by advanced composites and advanced high-strength steel. 

Regardless of the material used, vehicles still need to meet safety standards. It’s good news for aluminum that the all-aluminum Model S from Tesla Motors recently earned the highest crash test scores of any car ever tested. “Of all vehicles tested, including every major make and model approved for sale in the United States, the Model S set a new record for the lowest likelihood of injury to occupants,” Tesla said in a statement. 

The company attributed the vehicle’s performance to the lack of a gasoline engine under the hood, which allowed the whole front end of the car to absorb the impact. The Model S also outperformed other models in the government’s side pole impact test that mimics the dangerous impact of a vehicle sliding sideways into a post or tree. Tesla noted the car’s high scores in this test were due to the aluminum rods placed in its side. 

To read about new innovations in advanced high strength steels, head over to www.modernmetals.com/automotive and take a look at one of our online features this month. “Saving costs without compromising safety” discusses new research from ArcelorMittal regarding ultra-lightweight car door solutions. Reducing weight in vehicles is a topic we’ll continue to cover in Modern Metals. MM

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